Goodreads Summary: 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 have to start this review by talking about how original this book is. I’ve read other fantasy stories where the dragons are able to take on human appearance but none have ever been set in a world quite like this.
Seraphina Dombegh is a half dragon, half human girl born into a world where dragons and humans coexist only because of a very fragile peace treaty. The two races distrust each other intensely. Seraphina’s very existence is considered an abomination and must be kept secret and so her life is an intricate web of lies. Seraphina’s human father would gladly keep her hidden but Seraphina, a smart girl of enormous musical talent, is determined to live as full a life as she can despite believing herself to be a monster.
Hartman’s world building is fantastic! It’s easy to become lost in the history, the politics and the life in Goredd. This story involves several social issues including discrimination (both on the basis of race and sexual orientation), religion and bullying. Hartman does not skimp on the details that completely bring this book to life: the music, the clothes, the importance of saints in their religion, the fantastical characters – it’s all there. Her plot is well developed and the story is well written.
So with all this awesome world building and good writing, what’s my issue with Seraphina? The book starts off really well but the middle drags and drags. This is a long book and it took me quite awhile to get through it. I found myself waiting for something exciting to happen as the story slowly developed but I found myself bored and tempted to abandon the book altogether.
Additionally, I didn’t have any strong feelings of like or dislike towards Seraphina. She is likable enough character but I didn’t really connect with her. There is also my issue with Seraphina’s love interest being engaged to someone else. Granted, Princess Glisselda and Prince Lucian Kiggs are first cousins (gross, I know), but they are still engaged and Glisselda and Seraphina are friends, making the romance even more distasteful.
While Seraphina may have been too slow for me, I’m in the minority as most other reviews I have seen rave about the book. If you love high fantasy and don’t mind a slow moving plot, Seraphina may be the book for you. The action does pick up in the end and while there is no cliffhanger, Seraphina does not appear to be a standalone novel, but the first in a series.
Content: Kissing, discrimination, bullying and violence.
My Rating: Just Fine