Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Random House, 2012. ISBN 9780857531575.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. What a joy to come across a novel that held my attention the whole way through and rivalled books like Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Eona by Alison Goodman and Daughter of smoke and bone by Laini Taylor!
A talented musician, Seraphina is a complex and clever heroine with secrets to hide from the court around her. There have been four decades of peace between humans and dragons, but tension is building as the anniversary of the peace treaty draws near. To make matters worse, a member of the royal family has been murdered, and people believe that dragons have done it. Together with Prince Lucian Kiggs, Seraphina begins to uncover a plot that will jeopardise the kingdom.
Hartman has created a unique world where the dragons can appear in a human form. Intelligent and crafty, their unique characters add a dash of oddity to the story. They certainly aren't like the dragons that are found in many fantasy books and this adds greatly to the enjoyment of the book. The sounds of music soar throughout the novel as well and music lovers will find this a treat.
This is a stunning debut for Hartman. Her world is so rich that it feels real and Seraphina's coming of age story is riveting and unforgettable. I loved the rich descriptions of court life and the complicated secret life that Seraphina has. The growing attraction between Kiggs and Seraphina is handled with a delicate hand, but is not a straightforward romance and this adds to the tension of the story.
For dragon lovers, music lovers and others who enjoy high fantasy Seraphina is a must read. I feel certain that the book will be on award lists like the Locus Best First Novel list and the Andre Norton prize in the coming year. It is certainly a keeper for me and has a place in all libraries. It would also be an interesting Literature Circle book for older readers.