Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Length: 499 pages
In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."
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.
Protagonist: Seraphina has a secret to hide, she's half-dragon and half-human, a breed believed impossible by most of her world. If it got out what she was her whole world would be turned upside down. Because of this she's become a rather adept liar. I really loved Seraphina, she's not a typical fighting heroine nor one who just observes her world going into chaos. She's brave, intelligent, and fiercely loyal. While she's afraid of her secret coming out, she's not afraid to do what's necessary to ensure the safety of her friends and family.
Romance: So going into this it may be hard to see a romance coming, and it's written much like a Middle-Grade novel romance, where it's barely there, you can more feel it than hear about it, but later in the story it grows and evolves in a very natural way. By the end of this book one or both of the persons in this romance admit feeling love for the other. Usually this isn't something I like in a first installment, however this romance really earns the right to say that. The feelings don't come on too strong and it develops in, as close as I can tell, a natural pace.
World-Building: This is probably the first book that I've read where the dragons can take human shape that doesn't take place in an urban setting. It's a very detailed and in depth world for sure, first off everyone knows about dragons and their ability to shift, which causes a bit of racism to pop up in certain places. I love how the author handles the story and doesn't really info dump all that much at once but instead eases the reader into things. This can make for a bit of a slow pacing at times, but I will say that even when this book was moving at it's slowest I was never bored.
Predictability: So I first read this book about two and a half years ago, so revisiting it I wasn't quite sure what was surprising to me back then, or if I actually guessed certain twists or if I just remembered how the story progressed. This plagued me for most of the book, but towards the end, when tensions were high and there were twists and changes coming from every corner I will say that I was sincerely shocked by some of the things that happened.
Ending: The ending of this book really focuses on setting things up for the sequel which at the time I had first read this book was a long way off. However, this book does end in a very plateaued way, making the long wait much less painful. There are confessions made and changes within the government of this world that make this end very powerful, things are changing, and while the sequel will continue this story I'm sure, it definitely isn't the same world it started out as.
Since I read this book over two years ago, and I know how much my tastes have changed since then, I was concerned that this story wouldn't hold up. I knew I would still like it, but I was more worried about finding faults, however small, with it that I hadn't noticed or wouldn't have phased me before. While I may have found one or two, they are so small that they don't warrant mentioning. This book is truly something that holds up even years later.