Author: Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina, #1
The peace treaty between dragonkind and humankind has always been strained. In Goredd, dragons are allowed to take human form as saarantrai, though some in the kingdom are still wary. Seraphina Dombegh’s close ties to her musical mentor Orma, a saarantras, gives her unique insight into the dragon world. When Prince Rufus is found decapitated, the easiest explanation is a dragon in violation of the truce, but Seraphina suspects someone else might be to blame. As the anniversary of Comonot’s Treaty approaches, Seraphina seeks Prince Lucian’s help to find the real culprit before tensions give way to war and her own secret is revealed.
“Under the white winter sky the dragons looked rusty, a disappointing color for so fabled a species, but I soon realized their shades were subtle. The right slant of sunlight brought out an iridescent sheen in their scales; they shimmered with rich underhues, from purple to gold.”
Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina is one of my favorite examples of brilliant world-building. There’s political intrigue, philosophical differences, and prejudice on both sides. Hartman effortlessly uses each to build an extremely vivid world where physical differences are not the only thing that separates the two races. Dragons make both strange and awkward humans, emphasizing practicality but still intrigued by the peculiarity of human emotion. Humans have forgotten just how powerful dragons are and often mistake the peace treaty forge so long ago as a form of surrender. Both races struggle to find common ground, but must learn to work together in order to thwart the threat to peace.
Seraphina undergoes several personal trials throughout the book. She struggles with resentment toward her parents, for the one that lives and the one who died. Her musical ability and her understanding of dragonkind puts her in the limelight though self-preservation makes her want to disappear. Accepting herself has never been easy, especially in a world full of prejudice. Lucian Kiggs, as an illegitimate son, has always felt like an outsider. It is this part of him, coupled with his own desire to maintain peace, that draws him to Seraphina. Their playful banter and reciprocated respect allows their relationship to grow in a such a genuine way. There are several other characters that are just as interesting, from the dragon Orma who plays human quite clumsily to the young Princess Glisselda whose silliness does not negate her intelligence.
I didn’t think my rating for Seraphina would change with this reread, but I completely forgot just how complex its world is (which I didn’t fully appreciate the first time around), nor did I anticipate how moved I would be by Seraphina’s journey. Now I’m off to read the sequel…