Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Seraphina has a secret that she can tell no one. It’s a secret that is marked on her very body, permanently and from birth. Her mother was a dragon. Her father had not known her mother’s true identity until she died giving birth to Seraphina. So Seraphina has lived her life mostly in secret, tutored by her dragon uncle. But someone as talented as Seraphina is difficult to hide. Her music draws people to her. She joins the royal court as a music teacher just when a murder happens that points directly at the dragons. Seraphina starts investigating things, using her special mental abilities that even she doesn’t fully understand. That’s how she meets Prince Lucian, who is also captain of the royal guard. He’s also a person who seeks to solve every mystery he encounters, and what a mystery Seraphina is! Now decades of carefully constructed peace between the humans and the dragons may be at an end. The question is where a girl who is half human and half dragon fits into a world at war.
Hartman has created a book for teens that has all of the detailed world building of an adult fantasy novel. The politics of the society are complex and pivotal to the plot. The heart of the book is a mystery that is complex with many possible villains.
Her dragons are a delight. They can change into human form, but never quite understand humans and their emotions. They are beings that are purely intellectual, carefully structuring their minds to be in balance at all times. Love is forbidden; music and art is something they cannot create. They are a wonderful foil to the humans of the story who are awash in teen emotions.
But it is the humans who make this story work. Seraphina is a heroine who is a mix of human and dragon in many ways. She is prickly yet feels emotions fiercely. She’s a study in contrasts. She wants to be accepted, yet pushes people away. She wants to perform and yet needs to stay hidden. She is drawn to the prince and yet has to lie constantly to him. Prince Lucian too is a complex character who is a worthy pairing with Seraphina. Their relationship grows and shrinks, changes and matures throughout the book. It’s organic and slow, unlike the many lightning-bolt love stories we see in teen novels.
This is a book that took me a long time to finish because I never wanted it to end. Immerse yourself in this tale of dragons, music and mystery. Appropriate for ages 13-16.
Reviewed from library copy.
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