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.
I can't believe it took the Cybils to get me to read this great book. Thanks to all who nominated it!
The book is told from the point of view of Seraphina. This is a great choice because Seraphina's voice is so clear and emotional. She really draws the reader in to what she's experiencing, whether it's loneliness, fear, elation, or logic. The language she uses is almost musical, which ties in to her character's musical talents. The worldbuilding is small and rather insular to only the areas we see, but what is done is good and the creations of the dragons are solid and feel realistic. The love interest and romance are organic and grow with the story in a logical way, and the love interest is well constructed and has some great stumbling blocks to their relationship that don't feel constructed or contrived. The only discount I can think of is in the pacing. It seemed as if the author had a hard time getting started and revealing Seraphina's secret, so the beginning is disjointed and confusing. The end, too, seems abrupt and not quite right, as if the author wanted to keep right on going with the story but an editor told her it was time to end book 1 and start book 2. Really, though, this complaint is slight and shouldn't keep you from powering through the beginning to find a great story.