In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."
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.Hardcover, 512 pagesPublished July 10th 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Three stars: Complex world building and a slow pace hinder this one.
Seraphina likes her new home at the palace. She is a new apprentice to the Court Musician. Seraphina has a gift for music because she is half dragon. Being half dragon is so dangerous that Seraphina is forced to constantly hide who she truly is. Things come to a head when the Prince is found murdered and beheaded. All signs point to a dragon. Could the fragile peace between humans and dragons be at risk? Is a war on the horizon?
What I Liked:
- Sigh... I so wanted to love this book after reading all the hype and glowing reviews. I think this is likely a case of it's me not the book. I will say this, Seraphina is an incredibly complex, original and intelligent read that requires a bit of patience. Overall I was most impressed with the writing and the story telling.
- I went into this expecting a book all about dragons. I was surprised to find that it is so much more. In Ms. Hartman's version, dragons are intelligent creatures able to shapeshift into human forms. They are smart and musically inclined. I enjoyed all the original ideas presented when it came to all things dragons.
- Another intriguing aspect of this story is the grotesque beings who seem to live only in Seraphina's mind, that is until she discovers they are more than figments of her imagination. I liked exploring Seraphina's mind garden and learning the secrets of the inhabitants.
- Seraphina is a likable heroine. She is burdened by the terrible truth of her heritage. She is half dragon, which is dangerous in the human world. I enjoyed watching her come to terms with her true self and find peace with who she is. I also appreciated that she was smart and resourceful and able to piece together the clues to solve the mystery.
- The book takes off in the final third. All the pieces start to come together and once that happens, things move at a fast pace to a stunning finale. I enjoyed the mystery and I loved the twists and turns.
And The Not So Much:
- I am a reader that appreciates detail and complexity, but for some reason I had a hard time engaging with this book. The pace in the first half is incredibly slow and there is a ton of information tossed at the reader, which all doesn't make sense. I was frustrated with the way the author threw in so many new terms that weren't always readily explained. I was glad I had an ereader that defined some of these strange terms. This was a read that required a lot of patience, and I was tempted to set it aside on more than one occasion. I honestly think it was my frame of mind that hindered the read.
- The romance was a miss for me. Seraphina starts working with the illegitimate prince in order to learn the truth behind the murder. They establish a hesitant friendship, and then all of a sudden things shift as Seraphina suddenly realizes she loves him? It was too quick and it lacked believability. In all honesty, the romance felt like it was thrown in as an after thought. I could have done without it.
- There is a large cast of characters coming and going, a lot to keep track of. I didn't realize there was a glossary of sorts at the end of the book. I wished I had known it was there going into the read, it would have helped me understand the terms and keep track of the characters.
- I wanted to know more about the relationship between Seraphina's father and mother. This was an important part of the story, and I was left with many questions.
Seraphina was an impressive book, and I appreciated its complexity and originality. Unfortunately, the slow pace and heavy detail hindered the read for the first portion. It was a book that required extreme patience. The finale though makes up for the slow start, and I liked the pay off. This was indeed an impressive debut and even though I struggled a bit with this one, I will read the next book by this author.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.