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Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina’s tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they’ve turned the final page.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

Ah, a true fantasy! This was a fun, exciting read full of intrigue, secrets, and mystery. It is a bit unusual for a fantasy novel in that it doesn’t have anything that could really be called magic in it in spite of the dragons and supernatural events that occur in association with them. Rachel Hartman crafted an original and interesting world with a very different take on dragons that I found fascinating. There were many vivid and gorgeous descriptions that made me pause and read them over again, they were so poetic. I would like to get into an in-depth theological debate with her as to the impractical religious beliefs of the Goreddi, but I still thought she deserved credit for coming up with a new theology for her world. (Though I don’t buy the whole thing about dragons not having souls. I mean, how do they know? Has anyone ever died, searched the afterlife for dragons and returned to report their findings? Hmm?)

The plot:

Quick, suspenseful with a few laughs for seasoning, this was definitely a tale worth reading. I got into it easily and lost plenty of sleep over the pages. It does not end in a cliffhanger, but I do look forward to the upcoming books and yearn with an unrelenting passion for everyone to have their respective HEAs.

The characters:

It’s easy to guess as to Seraphina’s heritage just by reading the blurb, but it was enjoyable to watch her try to cope with the strange legacies left her by her late dragon mother. Seraphina has lived her whole life trying to go unnoticed, but her inquisitive nature and exceptional talents take her invariably into positions of spectacle. She was a character who was easy to sympathize with and watching her learn to accept herself and what she was over the course of the story was touching.

Lucian Kiggs has to be one of my favorite characters of late. Inquisitive like Seraphina, they find themselves drawn together by circumstance. He appreciates her perception and intelligence and she appreciates his sense of propriety. I thought it was interesting how they both held anger against their mothers for running off with their fathers because each had problems in their lives because of it. Granted, Lucian doesn’t have scales wrapped around his waist and arm, but he does have the unwelcome title of “bastard” and the gossip and prejudice that comes with it. I enjoyed watching how they both came to understand in the end what kind of love makes people throw everything away and yet, they still decide to be honorable and go about things “Kiggs and Seraphina style.”

I loved Seraphina’s uncle, Orma. It was hilarious how he kept asking Seraphina about human interaction (things like greetings and farewells) and it was simply adorable to watch him play the protective uncle whenever she was in danger. He was clever, intelligent, and clearly experiencing far more love, happiness, and human emotions than he was supposed to. I do hope we get to see more of him because he’ll be sorely missed otherwise!

I would never have guessed where the villain was hiding and kudos to Ms. Hartman for surprising me!

All in all, an enjoyable fantasy tale of self-acceptance and intrigue and I certainly recommend to fans of the genre interested in a new take on dragons!

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