From the back of the book: “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 the 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 reasons to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a memeber of the royal family is murdered in a 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.”

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I stumbled on this book when I was browsing Barnes and Noble; it sounded incredibly interesting, and I immediately logged on to my library’s website and requested it.

And it was soo good.

I’m a fan of YA books, complex characters, fantasy, coming-of-age, and world-building stories. This novel has all of these elements, and is not missing the most important: gorgeous writing.

Seraphina’s character was wonderfully written and developed. She is sixteen, but her voice is strong, rich, complex and lacks the teenage angst and “woe is me” feel so many teenagers in YA books can have, at least at points. There’s one particular scene where Seraphina’s disgust of who she is has overwhelmed her; while she is angry, her ability to work through her emotions and come to a semblance of self-acceptance in the scene is wonderfully touching. There were many times throughout the novel that I forgot she was sixteen; this maturity I think will make the novel appeal to people who aren’t typically YA fans.

So much of what makes this book wonderful is the writing. Every character we meet is well written and fleshed out; you can feel that each person has a back-story and opinions of their own. Rachel Hartman does a wonderful job at world building; there is a rich and bloody history between humans and dragons, and she captured all of the nuances of what life is like for both dragons and humans in this world. Best of all, she doesn’t spend time explaining the minutia of these worlds, but allows us to experience first-hand what life is like for both humans and dragons, which I think shows much more than mere description would.

Is the plot pretty predictable? Yes. I’d say I easily figured out 98% of what was going to happen. But the book was so wonderfully written I really didn’t care. I found myself identifying with Seraphina, caring for her, and also loving those who were dear to her.

All-in-all, I would recommend this as a solid, fun, and touching read.

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