Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, narrated by Mandy Williams
Published July 10th 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Seraphina is a beautiful epic young adult fantasy about…DRAGONS! And, well other stuff. Seraphina Dombegh is the daughter of a prominent lawyer in the Kingdom of Goredd. She’s a very talented musician that just joined the royal court. Just after she does so, a member of the royal family is murdered under very…suspicious circumstances.
Walking around Goredd, you might come across some people… that aren’t exactly like all the other people. They wear bells around their necks. Their talk is a little stilted. They value logic and abhor emotion. They look like people…but they are saarantri. They are dragons in human form. Human-dragon relations are a little… tense, but they have been relatively peaceful for the last forty years under Comonot’s treaty.
The Kingdom or Goredd has been at peace with dragons for forty years. Gored is now full of dragon ambassadors and scholars who are able to take the physical form of humans. As the treaty anniversary celebrations draw near, Prince Rufus is killed in a way that screams of dragon. The continued success already rocky treaty is becoming increasingly uncertain.
Our heroine, Seraphina Dombegh, is the new assistant music mistress in the royal palace. She is called to play at the royal funeral, her extreme talent awing all present. With loyalties on both sides of the treaty, Seraphina begins to look into the murder of Prince Rufus with the help of the captain of the guard, Prince Lucien. Can Seraphina and Prince Lucien uncover the truth without Seraphina’s own secrets being revealed?
I borrowed a copy of this audiobook from my library, and listened to it as I drove back and forth to work. At first it took me a little while to get into it. I found the narrator’s accent distracting and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the plot. As time went on, however, I began to appreciate the narrator, as she used pace and tone perfectly to draw me deeper into the story.
Seraphina takes place in an extremely well developed and fully fleshed out world. The kingdoms and their people each have their own unique politics and characteristics. I loved the way the politics between the people of Goredd and the dragons evolved. At first I thought it seemed a little silly—dragons transforming into people, but I became increasingly intrigued as the story went on. Both of these peoples are so different, with different characteristics, traits, and cultures. But there are things they both share, if only they could let go of their prejudices long enough to see it.
And that’s where Seraphina comes in. With her interests on both sides, she longs for each to see the merits of the other. Dragons are so logically minded, enjoying mathematical theorems and eschewing emotions. Dragons view people as weak, but interesting, plagued by disease that is emotion. Humans often view the dragons as cold monsters, capable of all sorts of evil.
I love love loved this book. Excellent world building, character development, and political intrigue! I loved it so much. If you like high/epic fantasy, or just think dragons are cool, give this book a shot!
Look out for my upcoming review of the sequel, SHADOW SCALE!
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.