I've delayed reading this book for too long! This is Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, the synopsis is provided by Goodreads:
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.
I've seen this many times for the past year or so, and finally got it because I needed to read a book with dragons! Last time I read one heavily encompassed with dragons was Eragon.
(safe for those who haven't read this book yet)
I read most of the book in one day, but I started it weeks ago so I had a slow start from the get go. I'm telling you this because this story seemed to go very slow for me in the beginning. And by beginning I mean about the first 200 pages. It started to get interesting around the half way point.
But despite the slow start, I found the world building to be the element that stood out the most to me. While I would argue it took me a while to get a grasp of the world, unlike in Eon, in which I found the world building to be incredibly, incredibly well done, the culture within the first 100-200 pages took me a very long time to understand it. There are so many saints and I can't tell who is important or what. And then there are made up names (though there is a glossary in the back) like Mootya, Porphyry, pygegyria, saarantras, and many more that take a while to comprehend (saarantras was probably the easiest to learn and understand). I was torn about complaining about it, but it was what made this world in this story so unique and beautiful and I can't not appreciate it. I would definitely live in this world-- I argue I would live in almost every world that has dragons.
The relationships in this story are sometimes a little too much for me. One that sticks out most to me was Seraphina and Kiggs. While I argue that in Cinder I didn't really see it much as a romance than more sci-fi, this book isn't more romance than fantasy however I felt that Kiggs showed up way too much. I imagine this city that they live in is huge-- and Kiggs being the Captain of the Queen's Guard shouldn't really be out and about as much as he is shown to be than with the Queen herself, so I found that a little too much for me. A relationship I say that was one of my favorites was between Seraphina and Fruit Bat, or Seraphina and Orma.
Okay, characters. I quite honestly liked all of the characters, the good and the bad. They weren't cliché good or bad and were characterized as well as they could have been written since this story has a butt load of characters. My favorites have to be Orma, Lars, Fruit Bat, and Glisselda. The people I would rank right below them would be Seraphina, Kiggs, Viridius, and basically all the other characters. I can't find one I didn't find likeable in some fashion.
I really enjoyed the concept of dragons in this story. They have the ability to transform into human form and value knowledge in much the same esteem as treasure. They find being a teacher is the most highly ranked title you can receive, higher than a parent or family member-- since dragons don't have emotions unless they're in their human form. However even though dragons and men have had peace for 40 years, men still distance themselves from them and treat them with repugnance. I just love seeing dragons in fantasy, whether looked down on and frightened like in Seraphina, or revered and worshiped as in Eon, or thought lost and feared as in Eragon or A Game of Thrones, or just feared like in The Hobbit. Yeah, I didn't really think about it but I have read a couple dragon books. And I expect to read many more in the future! Hehe.
I loved Hartman's writing style overall while I did find some of the dialogue to be a little confusing and jolting-- I had to reread some sentences to understand what the sentences meant in context, and sometimes I still didn't understand it. It was refreshingly nice to read from a writer that has a voice on the page. I'm 50 percent sure if I read another book by Hartman I could tell it was her. Such a lovely storyteller and I can't wait to read the sequel!
I give this book 4/5 stars. I took a star away because it took me a long time to really get into the story, but once I was hooked I loved everything about this story.
"Your lies didn't stop me loving you; your truth hasn't stopped me either."
-Lucian Kiggs, Rachel Hartman, Seraphina
-Lucian Kiggs, Rachel Hartman, Seraphina
Next To Read:
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
River Song's Spoilers:
(unsafe for those who haven't read this book yet, so don't read this section)
My favorite part is near the end, just after Orma and Imlann duel when Seraphina is torn between going to see if Abdo is alive and Lars is telling her to go and find him-- whether in Heaven or not. It's page 413 in my hardback edition. I think that moment out of everything that happened in the book showed how Seraphina developed as a character.
Unlike in the novel The Diviners, Hartman was able to introduce other characters with rare abilities like our protagonist and actually have them worth something important to the story. Meaning-- they actually acted in something in the book to change the course of the ending. I don't want to rant about The Diviners on two posts so I'll just leave it at that. But yes, even thought this is a different book with a different author, when I was reading more and more about Lars and Abdo and the others, I was afraid they were going to turn out unimportant. Hallelujah that didn't happen. In fact they were some of my favorite characters as I said in my review above.
Nearing the end, I was afraid the mystery behind Josef was going to be left unanswered. I know she tells us why Lars wouldn't say who he was (something about he was from a disgraced family name or something like that from another part of the country), but coming to the end I was really worried.
I had problems with Kiggs and Seraphina's relationship. Kiggs always seemed to appear out of nowhere, it was getting near the end of stalking. But I guess others would use the more operative word "coincidence." Either way, I felt the romantic sense of the story was the most lacky and disappointing part of the story. Though I was sad for Seraphina in the end since Kiggs chose to stay with Glisselda until they figured out what to do, I was glad that was how it ended. He isn't the kind of guy to just drop everything for love, he holds honor and a person's word with high respect and keeps it. That showed everything about his character then. I mean, clearly from reading through the book he cared about Seraphina, so it wasn't like he was using her. In fact, he did what he did because he didn't want to use Glisselda who was an innocent party in that scenario.
Actually, I want to talk about why Glisselda was one of my favorite characters. When she first enters the story, people assume what she's going to end up being, a spoiled brat who does what she's told and only wants things her way. That's exactly how I expected her to be, but she fooled me and that's due to brilliance of twists that I love. Actually that surprised me more than Imlann turning out to be Lady Corongi-- though I was very surprised. Her character reminded me of Tyrion Lannister from A Game of Thrones who I figured would be the antagonist but turned out to be one of the protagonists. Always surprise the reader (in the good way) and that is what will make a story and its characters live forever.
I am really excited for the sequel. I said this in my review, but I just am really excited!
Until Next Time,