Author: Rachel Hartman
Publication Date: 7/10/12
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Blurb(GR): 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.
In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.
Fantasy lovers, rejoice!
This is an amazing debut novel, and I feel confident that we have a new series to devour, covet, and hoard ARCs of in a cave somewhere. Not that I do that.
This is the story of two societies, diametrically different, but living together under a fragile peace treaty. The dragons are analytical thinkers who don’t understand emotion, art, or music. They view emotion and attachment as distasteful and are taught strict control. But the humans are interesting to them, in an intellectual sense, and so they begin to transform themselves - to take human shape and study human behaviors. And as any two societies who live side by side, the humans and the dragons collide, damage, and change one another irrevocably. Seraphina is the product of that change: a human/dragon hybrid born from a dragon mother who found that she could love passionately and couldn’t go back. Seraphina is an abomination, and can’t reveal her true identity for fear of violent intolerance.
This is fantasy at its absolute best: the landscape and inhabitants, customs, religion, language, and conflicts might be completely imaginary, but they are also so completely fathomable and rife with emotional honesty. Fantasy allows us to take up the role of outsider, explorer, looking in and discovering for the first time. But the amazing thing is that for all its foreignness, fantasy can gift us with so much real insight into our own society. It's as if, by acting as outsiders, we can see everything more clearly.
That’s what I felt when I read this book. This could very well be a book about civil rights, or women’s rights, or gay rights. Seraphina is born into an identity that she didn’t choose, and must deal with the shame, the lies, and a future without true connection to anyone. And just like in our own society, there are those who view any kind of novelty or change as a threat to their very existence.
This is a serious book, but it also made me laugh, sigh, and struggle with a lump in my throat. Seraphina is a completely inspiring heroine, beautiful in her vulnerability and naked bravery. The romance is a true meeting of the minds; I’m not sure that I even know what Lucian Kiggs really looks like. The writing is lovely (what a gorgeous opening paragraph!) and truly got under my skin in a few places. There were only a few times where I felt like a little bit less would have made more of an impact. But there is so much potential here; I suspect that this author will only get better.
And I will never, ever underestimate the seductive power of math.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Bjork – Joga
This is one of my favorites of hers, and I think that the lyrics and the mood can relate so heavily to the dragons, in human form, and experiencing strong emotions that they can’t decipher.
”You don't have to speak
They puzzle me
Then the riddle gets solved and you push me up to this
State of emergency
How beautiful to be”
You can read a prequel for this book (The Audition) for free here. And of course, this book is officially released TOMORROW! We are also very excited to announce that Rachel Hartman will be joining us in the next few weeks. We are happy to report that she is a very busy lady these days. Congratulations Rachel!