Friday, August 3, 2012
The Kingdom of Goredd was once at war with dragons, but a treaty was forged between them to keep the peace. Dragons now take human form to be part of human society where they can make advances in the fields of math and science. Many humans still hate dragons and condemn the treaty as folly. Conflicts between humans and dragons are increasing and becoming more dangerous as the fortieth anniversary of the treaty nears. Seraphina Dombegh is an incredibly talented musician who works to hide the true extent of her talent. She wants attention as far away from her as possible because she is half dragon and half human. Recently hired as a court musician and apprentice to the court composer, she arrives on the scene just in time for a member of the royal family to be murdered in a suspiciously draconian manner: beheaded and the head missing. Seraphina stumbles upon the investigation when she observes suspicious behavior and wants to uncover the truth that may be tied to her own draconian family. Paired with the captain of the Queen's guard, Lucian Kiggs, she will try to solve this mystery while protecting her own secrets before the treaty is completely shattered and the humans and dragons declare war in earnest.
I was interested in reading this book mostly because of the different take on dragons and the inclusion of music. I am so impressed with Seraphina. Rachel Hartman's sentient and insanely logical dragons are so intriguing and different than any portrayal I had seen before. They abhor emotion and irrationality, kind of like extreme Vulcans, but are more susceptible to both in human form. Their society even go so far as to mandate brain surgeries for those too compromised by either. These cold and intellectual creatures hold science and mathematics in the highest regard. If they attempt to play music, which is possible since it is simple mathematics at its core, they lack the emotion to give it any sort of expression. Music played a large part in the novel and I couldn't be happier about it. A lot of YA novels have music in their descriptions or a character plays an instrument, but many times, this aspect is either downplayed more than I thought it would be or completely forgotten. (I'm looking at you, Hush, Hush.) In this book, music serves as a plot device, furthering character development, and making the book simply enjoyable to read. Rachel Hartman's descriptions of music is beautiful and sensory. I wish there was a companion music album to the novel to get an idea of what the music would sound like.
The world building is magnificent in this book, but the characters are what kept me reading. Seraphina is a rare female character in YA literature. It is so refreshing to see a YA heroine who is logical and not irrationally led by her feelings to do really stupid things. Her powers of perception and deduction are impressive and, paired with her good judgment and sense, they allow her to methodically find out what really happened. Unfortunately, she has to lie a lot to keep her parentage and half dragon state a secret, which gets in the way of her investigation and distances her from others. There is a small romance subplot, but it doesn't distract from the main plot and it doesn't turn Seraphina into a blithering, brainless idiot. It was also sweet and gave Seraphina a softer side without completely destroying the strong person she is. The minor characters are just as good and well written, particularly Loud Lad and Orma, her dragon uncle.
Every time I picked up Seraphina, I was insanely happy being immersed into this wondrous world. I wanted to prolong the reading as much as possible because I know I'll have to wait a while for the next book. This is by far the most unique and well written fantasy book I have read all year that included discussion on philosophy, art, music, dance, emotion, logic, bigotry, and love. There aren't enough fishmuffins to show how much I love it. Highly recommended for lovers of dragon tales and epic fantasy.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins