Monday, July 16, 2012

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Although there has been four decades of peace between humans and dragons, there is still a sharp divide and intense mistrust between the humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd.  Seraphina is a talented musician and the assistant to the court composer.  When a prince is killed in a suspiciously draconian way shortly before the anniversary of the treaty, tensions run high.  Seraphina is drawn into the investigation along with Prince Lucian Kiggs, but Seraphina has her own secrets to hide.

This rocked.  Awesome beginning to a series.  Fabulous world creation.  Excellent character development.  Perfect pacing.  I totally loved it.  Rachel Hartman created something completely knew out of old fantasy conventions.

In this world, dragons have the ability to take on human form.  Dragons are highly intelligent and have contributed much to the human world with inventions and mathematics.  All dragons in human forms wear bells on their shoulder to distinguish themselves, but the dragons that are scholars do not.  If they are able, they can blend in.  I say, "if they are able" because dragons are very different from humans.  They do not have souls, and they do not understand, or process, emotions.  They view things through a strictly scientific lens.  This makes it hard for them to act as convincing humans.

Spoilers ahead.  Big ones. 

We learn that Seraphina is half dragon.  Her father unknowingly married a dragon in human form.  Her mother was cast out from her kind because she loved.  Seraphina is deeply angry at her mother (who died in childbirth) for making this choice, and for giving birth to her.  She believes she is completely alone, and must conceal this gigantic secret.

This becomes harder after the death of Prince Rufus, and she becomes closer with Kiggs, as well as Princess Glisselda, his betrothed.  It becomes even more difficult when Seraphina realizes she's developing romantic feelings for Kiggs, aside from the fact that he's a prince and betrothed, she knows she could never be with him because of who she is.  Seraphina comes closer and closer to telling him, as they become friends.  Kiggs is a bastard, and knows what it's like to feel alone and isolated.  He is always truthful with her, and it pains her she can't be truthful with him.

There are some great explorations of prejudice and what it's like to feel "other."

Something I liked a lot was watching the relationship between Kiggs and Seraphina grow, as well as the relationship between Seraphina and Glisselda.  Seraphina never really had friends before.  She kept to herself as much as possible, afraid to develop close connections to people.  There was a natural and realistic growing of relationships and I thought it was very well done.

More spoilers!
At the end, Kiggs and Seraphina both acknowledge that they want to be together.  They also acknowledge that this is not the time for that to happen.  They both have things they need to do, and Kiggs knows Glisselda needs him for the difficult times ahead.  They'd love to run off together, but that isn't feasible.  They both love Glisselda, and aren't going to sneak around behind her back.  When the war is over, they will tell her.  I hope they can stick to that.  It isn't clear how Glisselda feels about Kiggs.  Kiggs and Glisselda clearly care about each other, but I don't know if she loves him or not.  It will be interesting to see where that goes.

Also, awesome world building.  This is actually a world that Rachel Hartman has been in for a long time, going way back to her graphic novels Amy Unbound.  There were fascinating descriptions of how dragon communities function which we got in bits a pieces.  Hopefully there will be more to come.

There are still many questions, foremost in my mind is, who is this St. Yirtrudis?  What did she do that's gotten her blacked out of all the books?  I'm sure it will come up again.  Rachel Hartman has clearly carefully thought out her world.

This is a series I'm excited about, and I hope the next ones come out not to far from now.  This is a series I will absolutely be following.

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