Seraphina, Book 1
Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Source: Random House via Random Buzzers
Description from Goodreads:
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.
First Sentence: "I remember being born."
Hey, party people! I know I've been super behind lately! I'm so sorry about that, because it totally makes me look really lazy, but I've just been really busy with life stuff, even though, usually, this mostly is my life. This weekend, I was in Pittsburgh for my step-grandfather's hundredth birthday party. There were some open bars and excellent opportunities to hang out with family I don't see much. I also got to finish some books, although not nearly enough since the days were busy, but I finished two on the way up and two on the way down, the first of which was Seraphina.
Getting through this book took me a while, only because of the life stuff. I could have read this in one intense sitting, although I would definitely have sobbed had that been the case. I was definitely fighting off tears while I was riding on MARTA. Anyway, I totally adored this book and I am so thrilled that I was chosen to be an Ambuzzador for something I truly appreciate so much. Even better, I have a copy to give away to one of you, so that I can share the magic with others, which I really love to do.
I have to start by talking about the dragons, because, ummm, dragons are freaking cool. Seraphina is pretty much what I was dreaming the book Firelight would be...only better. This one, too, has dragon shifters, but these are so much better thought out and so much more serious than Sophie Jordan's. This isn't about dragons just because paranormal's in; Seraphina focuses more on social tensions, bigotry, and prejudice.
The dragons here remind me most of Vulcans. They live their lives based on logic and find emotions to be in bad taste. However, one of the most fascinating aspects is how shifting to human form can affect their brains, breeding improper emotions like love and hatred. There was also a scary aspect, since any dragon found guilty of undue emotion was likely to get his/her dragon brain wiped of all memories, so that the human taint could be removed.
As may be obvious, there is a lot of tension between humans and dragons (whether in human form or not), despite the treaty that has created a tentative alliance between the two species. These tensions are seriously close to erupting after the murder (possibly by a dragon) of one of the countries princes. An anti-dragon group , the Sons of Ogdo, is constantly gaining in adherents. Meanwhile, the dragons obviously view humans with some amount of contempt, both for their emotions and their brief lifespans.
In this world, humans and dragons (while in human form...there is no bestiality up in here) are forbidden from forming romantic attachments and, most especially, from procreating. Well, as with rules, this one has been broken. Seraphina discovers in her youth that she is half-dragon. Her father did not know, in fact, that his wife was a dragon until she died in childbirth, her silver blood spilling from her body. Seraphina has red blood, but she also has scales along her stomach, back and arms. She leaves her life trying to avoid notice, a lonely life with only her tutor and uncle, Orma, for a friend.
Despite her need for anonymity, she cannot keep quiet when she begins to suspect she knows the answers to some of the mystery surrounding the prince's death. She finds herself having to choose between her country's best interests and her own, between loneliness and love. Seraphina is an amazingly strong, wonderful heroine. I loved her for her faults as well as her skills and cleverness; she lies constantly, even when the truth might be better, and she has serious trust issues. She is, however, braver than just about anyone.
Seraphina was DAMN close to being a perfect five star read for me. The only aspect that I continually found jarring, even though Hartman did explain it and it did work, was Seraphina's mental garden. This won't really make sense if you haven't read the book, but you'll get it when you do. I personify things, including my brain, picturing it filled with disordered shelves covered in dust, often locked with now wayward keys. That's probably a little weird, or even a lot. Seraphina's relationship with her mind, though, makes mine pale in comparison. It was just a bit too weird for me, and the descriptions perhaps ran a bit long. It was the only part of the book that dragged at all for me.
This book seems to me like Firelight (for the dragon shifters) + Cinder (girl who has to hide what she is, affecting her relationships) + a whole lot more awesomeness that is all Rachel Hartman's. The writing and the world building are both completely exceptional. I am already salivating for the sequel and the title hasn't even been released yet. I declare myself to be, based on just this novel, a firm Hartman fan.
To enter to win a copy, fill out the rafflecopter below. US only. Also, please don't lie. I regularly pick two or three winners before I choose someone who has actually done the thing their entry claimed they did. This makes me sad inside.
Favorite Quote: "‘I was just chased through St. Willibald’s, and you know why? Because I was kind to a quig. I scrupulously hide every legitimate reason for people to hate me, and then it turns out they don’t need legitimate reasons. Heaven has fashioned a knife of irony to stab me with.’"
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