Children's Book World, I stopped to chat with bookseller-of-awesome Heather, and she raved about a new book called SERAPHINA by a debut author. I'd never heard of it, but Heather's rec was enough to put it on my TBR list.
Fast forward another week: I was in my local library, feeding my audiobook addiction in the YA section, when lo and behold, I see SERAPHINA displayed with the new releases. I didn't need another sign.
Description from 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.
It's no secret that I'll read a book from any genre as long as I connect with the main character.
With SERAPHINA, I appreciated the deft world-building of the high fantasy and the plot in which Seraphina unintentionally becomes part of an investigation into a royal murder that could lead to a revolution. I enjoyed the shape-shifting dragons and their difficulties adjusting to human emotions. But Seraphina herself hooked me.
She's passionate but unsure of herself and her talents. She's an honest person who's been forced to lie all her life. She wants to do what's right in spite of the danger to herself. Seraphina has the potential to change her world, and she begins to learn that it's something to embrace, not fear.
And she's clever. I'm such a sucker for a clever heroine. Her narration can be quite witty, and I actually laughed out loud — and hard — for a good, long minute at one of her observations.
Ok, I should talk a little bit about the plot: first off, the stakes are high and very real. The complexities of the human-dragon truce and the inequality and prejudice in Goredd authentically represent how difficult it is to create (and maintain) peace and understanding between two drastically different cultures — especially when everyone isn't on board in the first place. It's a complicated situation with plenty of gray areas, and Hartman does a great job not only establishing it in the present but also lending weight to its past.
Bonus points: There's a budding romance with a very swoonworthy guy. (Seraphina and Lucian are presented as equals. EQUALS. And he respects her opinions and instincts. Like I said, worthy of the swoon!)
Overall, SERAPHINA is an excellent addition to YA high fantasy, and a stellar debut. I can't wait to see more from Hartman, and to return to Seraphina's world in the sequel. I was lucky enough to have this book recommended to me, and now I'm paying it forward. Enjoy!