Paranormal Young Adult/Fantasy
Random House Children's Books
Available July 10th
Received via NetGalley for review
THE STORY (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.
MY THOUGHTSSeraphina is a grand, sweeping fantasy where a precarious truce between humans and dragons keeps war at bay, and while life among dragons is obviously something we can’t realistically relate to, the thread of prejudice running throughout on both sides is more than enough to yank us into the story heart and mind. The lack of understanding between both species is staggering, with neither human nor dragon deigning to learn anything significant about the other, instead both irrationally cling to a long-standing hatred perpetuated generation to generation. It’s this aspect of the story that anchors us amidst a sea of unusual and fantastical creatures, and it’s pleasantly confusing to try and sort through our feelings towards each group as we attempt to ferret out information on both species that neither group seems willing to research on their own.
While Seraphina’s world is a fascinating one, the beginning chapters tend to drag a bit (as is often the case when there's a significant amount of world-building), our connection to people and events held at bay as we’re bombarded with unfamiliar terminology and a rather large cast of characters given Seraphina herself has seventeen individual companions existing in her head alone. There is a glossary of terms in the back, though those with an e-reader will likely not benefit from it given the difficulty of trying to flip back and forth in a digital format, but inevitably those who have a physical copy will be grateful for the thorough description of both terms and characters. About a third of the way through however, the strange words and unusual descriptions lose their foreign quality, and the story quickly picks up as the leader of the dragons makes his way to the human royal court.
Seraphina is an intriguing heroine, not a young woman who leaps off the pages at us from the first chapter, but rather someone who takes her time garnering our favor, holding pieces of herself so close to her chest we can’t get a good look at them until she slowly starts to unfurl and lets us get a glimpse of the real girl. She’s highly intelligent and possesses an unexpected sense of humor that seems to pop up at random times to shock us into a laugh, and once we’re immersed in her world and learn her secret, we find ourselves fiercely protective of this young girl who has not once been accepted for the truly extraordinary person she is. She’s hidden herself her entire life due to her own fear as well as the rampant fears of others, and it’s hugely satisfying to watch as she starts to take pride in herself, flaws and all, and trust those around her to see with more than just their eyes and their preconceptions.
After a somewhat sluggish and disorienting start, Seraphina blossoms into an engaging paranormal murder mystery with a touch of light romance worked in, and we’re given a solid conclusion to the first installment with still a myriad of possibility for Seraphina and company moving forward. Those who are lovers of fantasy most likely won’t be quite as lost in the sea of unusual terms as the world is built piece by piece in the beginning, but I would encourage those who don't attempt fantasy often to keep reading and allow Seraphina’s subtle charm to work its not-insignificant magic.