Lena’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Published: July 2012
“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.” – goodreads
What I really liked about Seraphina were the dragons. They felt fresh and well thought out, and I loved how they fit into the politics of the world Hartman created. Here dragons are a highly rational and a dangerous political force to be reckoned with, despised by humans yet powerful. The humans on the other hand are living in a society that is traversed by religious propaganda that antagonises against dragons while strongly believing in its moral superiority (I mean, duh, that’s what propaganda usually is). Being a dragon in human disguise or sympathising with dragons is a dangerous business in such a society.
This well developed world was very intriguing, felt very lifelike and it was what really set this novel apart from other YA novels for me. It was innovative and did its own thing, really branching out into fantasy, not getting lost in hormonal side plots (although there is romance involved. It just does well at not becoming the main focus and only purpose of the heroine). The theme of music added another touch to the story.
The main character Seraphina’s character development from a very cautious person to a more trusting and open one is mirrored in the tone of the narration, that starts out rather subdued, almost sinister to get more colourful yet never light when Seraphina meets and opens up to some people, interspersed with unexpected bursts of humour. Overall, the tone is rather on the serious side.
I noticed that there seem to be many male characters, yet rather few females, although those females that do play a role were glorious badasses, definitely not on the submissive side and wonderfully developed characters. Overall, the character game is very strong in this one. I loved the relationships that developed and how quirky some characters were. You won’t find your typical YA stock characters, although some might be reminiscent of them but always with an additional particular touch to them that sets them apart and makes them original again. Even weeks after reading this book they are still alive in my memory and I want to know so much more about them and meet them all again in the next book.
What irked me a bit was how trusting certain members of the royal family were towards Seraphina from the beginning of the book. It was never clear to me if they knew each other before, but it always seemed like Seraphina was new to the court and thus wouldn’t know the royal family. And I mean, the royals just had a family member killed and there they go trusting what I thought was a random stranger. When you read the prequel The Audition it becomes clear that at least some of these family members have known Seraphina for a while, thus maybe having the chance to build some trust and maintain it even after having a family member killed. Nevertheless, I always found it confusing how seemingly randomly they trusted the cautious Seraphina.
Seraphina is the first book in what looks like it will be a duology. The second book Shadow Scale comes out 10 March 2015 and I will definitely be reading it. I need to have more of this world.