Author: Rachel Hartman
Publication date: July 10, 2012
Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy
Synopsis: Dragons and humans are at peace, but it may not last much longer. The long war between dragons and the humans of Goredd has not been forgotten by either species. As the forty year anniversary of the peace accord draws near tensions are high after a member of the royal family is murdered in a suspiciously dragon-like manor.
Seraphina, who has just arrived at court and recently become assistant to the court composer, is about to become involved. The last thing Seraphina wants to do is to gain attention from others, especially not Prince Lucian Kiggs who is determined to solve every mystery that presents itself. Seraphina has a secret of her own, one that she could be killed for if discovered.
Review: Several people I know who’ve mentioned this book thought it was a sequel to Eragon. I assure everyone it isn’t. Yes, it’s about dragons and the main character’s name sounds quite a bit like “Saphira,” but that’s where the simulates end. That said, I’ve always been attracted to the topic of dragons which is what drew me to this book.
I was expecting to be bothered by the fact that their were characters shifting between human and dragon “forms.” This is fairly common in dragon stories (for example Firelight by Sophie Jordan or Eustace from C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader), but was pleased that the main character did not have this ability which made the story more unusual.
The portrayal of dragons was made further unique in that despite the dragon characters in the book occasionally appearing human their thought process is made to seem very different. This is something I have found lacking in other dragon books: dragons aren’t humans so they shouldn’t think like humans no matter what they look like.
The relationship between Kiggs and Seraphina was refreshing. The relationship developed slowly, and I enjoyed that the two struggled to trust one another as I would expect from people of their particular backgrounds. They’re also unusual in YA in that they don’t stop in the middle of a disaster to kiss. In fact, at one point Seraphina states, “‘Crisis first, love later.'” The romance remains very much a subplot without overpowering the story as a whole.
My main complaint with this story is the number of flashbacks. I normally do not like flashbacks and prefer the story I read be told primarily in the present as telling the story out of chronological order can make it difficult to follow. Despite this, all of the details included makes this a good book to reread. I’ve read this book two and a half times now and am surprised how many details I notice after multiple readings I missed the first time.
What readers should know: This book contains frequent use of the word meaning illegitimate child that starts with a “b.” Other than that it’s pretty clean language-wise. The romance doesn’t go beyond kissing when involving the main character, but there are some scenes involving other characters that suggested more was going on romantically between those side characters, but the novel doesn’t go into much detail. There was some violence, but it wasn’t described in depth. This novel deals with discrimination between humans and dragons with some organizations and reactions that loosely resemble historical manifestations of discrimination.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 for good world-building and well thought out plot.