Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This is definitely a different type of dragon book. Despite the dragon on the cover of the book, the book really is about people and relationships, prejudice, politics and religion. Set in a world where dragons have the ability to morph into human form, people and dragons have lived under an uneasy truce for the past forty years. Despite the truce, dragons are feared and hated and treated as second class citizens, forced to stay in their "saarantras" - human form - around humans, and wear a bell to warn humans that they are really dragons. In this book, the dragons are very logical creatures, considering emotion to be a human weakness and detriment to "ard" - order or correctness.
There is a glossary and cast of characters at the end of the book - I think it would have been better placed at the beginning.

Seraphina is a half-breed - her mother was a dragon who died in childbirth, and her father is human. Her father never knew that his wife was really a dragon until her death and he has struggled with this fact since then. Had her true parentage been known, Seraphina would have been killed, so her father lied and hid the facts about his first wife - even from Seraphina herself until she began having visions and grew scales on her arm and torso. At that time she learned that her teacher Orma, was actually a dragon and her uncle and he instructed her in both music and dragon facts and tried to help her to cope with her oddities.

Due to the extreme prejudice and religious taboo, Seraphina must constantly lie and hide her true self and she believes that she is the only one of her kind in existence.
She has inherited an extreme talent in music from her mother and at age 16 becomes assistant to the court music director and teaches music to the 15 year old princess Glisselda.

Seraphina becomes involved in the political turmoil surrounding the truce between dragons and humans, falls in love with Prince Kiggs, and discovers that she can communicate mentally with other half-breeds.  I found it a bit disturbing that some of the other half-breeds suffered from much more severe physical deformities than Seraphina, thus lending credence to the taboo and ban on inter-species relationships although this point was not developed in the book.

The politics/religion/prejudice reminded me a bit of the politics and talking animal rights issues in the book Wicked (although not nearly as boring and overdone as in Wicked). 
I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the next book that the author writes.

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