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.
Firstly, thanks to Krispy and Alz for the rec. Secondly, hell yeah, epic fantasy! If we have to have a trending creature of the year, let it be dragons and not vampires or werewolves or any of that tripe. Dragons are awesome. And the dragons in SERAPHINA are extra awesome, because they're shape shifters.
Obviously, I loved this book. I felt such a sense of fulfillment at the end, which I have not felt for many books this summer, even the ones I liked. But this one was rich and delicious and like a big, indulgent slice of chocolate cake.
I've really backed off on fantasy lately, and I think that's sometimes because I feel as if the characters are not always so developed and tend to be cardboard cutouts of what you'd expect in a Quest Type Book. This book, luckily, did not fall under that category. The characters are wonderfully multi-dimensional, and I found myself enjoying getting to know them and being around them. This may be an odd comparison to some, but to me, the book had the style of Ella Enchanted. And not only because Kiggs reminded me of Prince Char. It was because the characters were so delightful and well-rounded and temperamental, and like actual people. Seraphina, of course, was a spectacular main character, no two ways about it. Princess Glisselda surprised me with how she grew throughout the novel. And all the side characters impressed as well.
The book is a cool hybrid of fantasy and mystery, as in the heart of the book lies a murder plot. Just to be clear, though, this is not one of those fantasy books that's like YAH, EPIC BATTLE AFTER EPIC BATTLE. The truly action-packed scenes are far and few in between. I get the impression the author does not particularly enjoy writing them. It's not anything to the detriment of the book, but it might be, if you're expecting a traditional world-war style epic fantasy.
SERAPHINA is not without its flaws. The pacing is not ideal. By which I mean, I don't think anything in the book plot-wise interested me until after page 300. Yeah. I read 300 pages in which Nothing of Serious Import happened. (To be fair, things happened, they just weren't things that were terribly Urgent or Gripping.) By around page 180, I felt sort of gypped. I was like, central conflict??? I need it! Your world is good and cool Rachel Hartman, but I'm done with this back story shit.
It's not like the 300 pages were lousy to read. Rachel Hartman world-builds (and writes!) like a boss. But. There's a ton of info-dump. And I can't praise the book to high heavens for a good 100 pages of info-dump and 300 pages of slow-moving plot.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend the book, because I don't regret getting through those 300 pages. It was worth it. It was so, so worth it.
So in conclusion, huzzah for SERAPHINA!
OKAY, STARTING NOW, SPOILERY REACTIONS. DO NOT CONTINUE READING UNLESS YOU'VE READ THE BOOK. GO READ THE BOOK, AND THEN COME BACK. But seriously, go read the book.
All right. This book weirdly reminded me of Inuyasha (in a good way), except replace demons with dragons. Halfsies trying to find their place in the world? People hating all demons/dragons and saying they don't have souls? Main character who cannot come to terms with his/her identity? Full dragon/demon who seems pretty emotionless but actually is a softie on the inside (Sesshoumaru/Orma)?
And speaking of which, I really just needed to out my love for Orma. Because I love him. I love that he's prickly and unintentionally hilarious and also badass as all get out. I WISH he wasn't Phina's uncle. Because that would've been a fun pairing. Kiggs is just too vanilla. He's like Prince Char except less charming and with more angst. Not that there's anything wrong with him, I just am obsessed with men who are emotionally unavailable. Like Sesshoumaru. Yes. And Orma. And Narl from SPINNER'S END by Robin McKinley, because who doesn't love an emotionally unavailable fairy smith?!?! Best love interest ever. This probably explains so many things about me, but I'm over it.
I have to admit, I'm not fond of love triangles, and I'm not fond of this one in particular. Although I like that Kiggs and Seraphina were friends to begin with, it was still sort of weird how she fell for him. Also, Kiggs irritates me sometimes with his bastard angst. It's getting to Jon Snow levels of moping. Man up, dude. (And this is from someone who loves Jon Snow like a crazy loving thing, but that's probably because of Kit Harington. Hey, Kit. Call me.) Furthermore, doesn't seem like much of a competition unless Princess Glisselda has secretly been hiding how she burns with passion for her cousin-fiance, which I didn't get anywhere in the book.
But anyway. Sequel? Let's get that rolling out soon. Because I needs it.