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.
My thoughts: I did not expect to finish this book with tears in my eyes. I’d expect that kind of reaction from a John Green novel or some other contemporary story, but not a book about dragons. Because as impressive as Hartman’s take on dragons are, it’s strange to find that my favorite parts weren’t the fantastical beings or the greatly imaginative world, but the emotional, intimate moments.
Seraphina is so delightfully layered and spellbinding without even trying and it’s because of the characters more than anything else. Do you want to know how you can have a story that includes basically any concept in the world? You get us to care about the characters. When you start with that kind of solid foundation, something to hold on to, readers will follow you anywhere. Even more so if you can make them relatable.
In so many ways, Seraphina is a product of two worlds. And yet she feels separated from both. She longs for things she thinks she can never have, and if that isn’t relatable I don’t know what is: The need to belong, to feel accepted and loved.
Not to mention that while she learns more about herself, the “peace” between humans and dragons threatens to come undone. But simply replace the words human and dragon with two new distinctive groups, be it by race, sex, or anything else, it’s easy to see how this equates to real life. We often separate ourselves in so many ways, producing the temptation to hate what is different, rather than to celebrate it and try to understand it.
So as Seraphina works to accept herself and to be open to the love she deserves, her two worlds must decide whether they can continue to coexist and learn to accept each other. The former issue is addressed throughout the story, in a coming-of-age way that made me more emotional than I thought I’d be. The latter issue is still being worked on, with enough deep-rooted problems to see why a second book would be helpful.
I look forward to continuing Seraphina’s journey. To see her sacrifice for what she believes in, to see her grow, knowing that she’s good enough, that she’s loved, and that she has a gift. One that might help bring real peace between her two worlds.