Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
If this book doesn't win some form of award, the literary world has clearly shoved it's head into the ground.
I just want to go on and on about how much I enjoyed Seraphina that I want to make sure I don't spoil anything.
So here's the amazon summary, "In her New York Times bestselling 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." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE
First off, we're going to ignore that bit from Christopher Paolini. He can stick his head in the ground and leave it there. Someday I'll reread Eragon, be a fanatic about how awesome it was and then be all mad that the series continued to such weird places. I think Paolini wrote before he had a refined voice and that was his downfall. MOVING ON. NOT HAVING A RANTY TANGENT.
NOT HAVING A RANTY TANGENT. URGH.
Okay, okay, moving on. FOR REAL.
So I'm going to break down the amazon summary for ya, because I'm sweet like that.
When it says, "Four decades of peace" it means "Four decades of, 'I'M WATCHING YOU SO INTENTLY TO MAKE SURE YOU DON'T MOVE ONE CENTIMETER OUT OF LINE. BIGGOTRY EVERYWHERE." When it begins to describe the dragons as folding themselves into human shape, it sounds pretty damn creepy. But it's actually pretty neat.
Seraphina has one of the more colorful re-imagining of the 'typical' dragons that I've ever come across so far. AND I LOVE IT. This books dragons are almost like robots in human skins. They are very analytic and logical, yet are clever and miss out when sarcasm or humor is in play. The most truly astonishing thing is that Hartman seems to make the dragons an alienating species yet, as the reader, I became very sympathetic to them and ended up cheering or booing at them as I would any human. It was a pretty nifty experience. Although, reading is a great experience as the character of a being comes forward no matter what it might be housed in. PHILOSOPHY. WHEEEEEE.
Anywho, so Seraphina is half dragon half human and horribly upset about it. Understandably as her Father feels betrayed by her mother (the mom was the dragon, she died in childbirth) as he didn't know that she was a dragon. She is raised by her Father and Uncle Orma for the most part (Orma is a dragon who lives among the humans; he also has a penchant to wear fake facial hair while he's in human form (dragons can't have facial hair in human form-I don't know why)) and taught to hide her dragon half for fear of society's reaction. Being a half-dragon she has a weird mental side affects that go on. She has a mind-garden which she can reach through a form of meditation where a bunch of little avatars (about 17-18) run around and play for lack of better summary words. She needs to do the meditation daily or else she has seizure moments where she collapses under the weight of a vision. BUT I'M GETTING AHEAD OF MYSELF.
Seraphina herself is a wonderfully lovable character because she balances somewhere between logic and emotion. She navigates every situation based on social expectations, polite, and logic; yet she still acknowledges the emotions of not only herself but the other characters as well WHICH MAKES A MUCH MORE COMPLETE STORY.
Dear Rachel Hartman, you are the newest addition to my preferred authors list. PLEASE DON'T TURN OUT FOR LIKE PAOLINI. I swear, I'll leave it alone. Maybe.
So Seraphina finds herself in the middle of a lot of court gesturing between the humans and dragons because her Father helped with the treaty between the dragons and humans. She's also the court composer's assistant so she lives in the palace. She's also a damn good musician. She also runs into Prince Lucian Kiggs as she treks through town and begins a friendship with him. She gives music lessons to the Princess Glisselda. YAY. Not only can you love Seraphina just for being Seraphina, but there's not anything out of place or unexplained that doesn't have the promise of being explained.
The cast of characters that surround Seraphina are their own handful of awesome, the half-dragon stuff slowly but surely gets explained, and the world building is impeccable.
I'm honestly having a struggle trying to think of a better dragon book off the top of my head.
The nitty gritty stuff. ACTUALLY READING THE BOOK. The characters are distinct, unique, and emotionally reactive (as in you will emotionally react to them; don't be heartless on me). The book moves at a nice pace, and things aren't over explained or under-explained. I do admit that in the beginning, as I am wretched with names, I had trouble keeping track of who was who and where they went and WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN but I personally run into that with every story that gives out complicated names and lots of them. I'm a good reader, I PROMISE.
I want to go back to the dragons for a moment. In the beginning of the story, Prince Rufus is found to be murdered by having his head severed and nowhere to be found. Apparently, the dragons were notorious for biting the heads off of humans and so a lot of suspicions were directed to the dragons. The dragons themselves acknowledge the blood thirsty part of their nature, but it's almost like it doesn't matter that sometimes they get a little murder-y; for lack of better terminology; they're people too!
Hartman also introduces a creature I've never heard of before; quigutl. I'm going to yank the definition from the glossary in the back of the book: "subspecies of dragon, which can't transform. They are flightless; they have an extra set of arms and terrible breath. Often shortened to 'quig'." I absolutely loved the quig as they were quirky, built little gadget trinket things out of metal, and seemed to be the source of technology for their world. YET, the quig were completely disregarded by everyone as a manner of vermin of sorts. It was such a weird perspective that, yeah the quig can make useful objects as they please, but MAN THEY ARE JUST WEIRD. BETTER TREAT THEM LIKE CRAP. Not saying everyone treated them like crap, but most of society did. It was fascinating since it's the opposite of our current human society. ER, SOCIAL MUSINGS CAN STAY OUT OF BOOK REVIEWS. Anyways, the quig were kind of adorably disgusting, had their influence in the story, and I hope they come back in later books. There hopefully are more books coming in the series. THERE BETTER BE. I would be heartbroken if there weren't.
Err, so I think I meandered through a tangent. I really enjoyed this book. I used to be quite an avid fan of any book that even mentioned dragons, but I wandered away from the genre after the travesty that Paolini put me through. This book, this definitely gets me excited to see what else might have cropped up in my willful neglect of the genre.