Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (#1 in the Seraphina series) (Corgi Childrens, 3 January 2013)
SERAPHINA is a smart and stunning new take on dragons that uses the contrast between dragons and humans to bring human emotion to the fore of the book, making for a fascinating and often moving story.
Prince Rufus has been murdered – his head bitten clean off, evidence that it could only have been the work of a dragon. Dragons and humans have enjoyed peace for four decades, thanks to the treaty negotiated by Ardmagar Cormonot, leader of the dragons, and Queen Lavonda, but now this fragile peace might be easily lost. Seraphina, a musician at court, finds herself somehow entangled in the investigation into the murder, led by Prince Lucian Kiggs. But Seraphina has a terrible secret to hide...
SERAPHINA is gorgeously imagined and beautifully written. The plot is intriguing and well-paced, with a fair few twists and an exciting climax. Hartman's prose is outstanding among YA lit; to me it's up there with Laini Taylor. It's just so crisp and evocative, and the whole story is written with such warmth and humanity.
The worldbuilding was so intelligent and detailed (SERAPHINA AND KIGGS DISCUSSING MADE UP PHILOSOPHERS!!!), and I loved the dragons. Dragons are unemotional creatures who believe in logic and reason above all, but in order to engage with humans, they take on human form, and in these human forms, they are often baffled and angered by the emotions that they feel. It makes for delightful humour as well as heartbreaking insight into the human condition, especially into the love and affection that humans feel for one another. There are some really hauntingly lovely lines in this book about love. I may have teared up a few times.
I loved all the characters! Seraphina was a strong and resolute heroine, but I loved her vulnerable moments too. There's so much sadness and loneliness in her, it rips my heart apart. There are lots of fantastic relationships to enjoy here between Seraphina and the other characters. Seraphina and her father! Seraphina and her uncle! And ahhh, Seraphina and Kiggs and their love story. It was so good and heart-achey. I was completely drawn into Seraphina's feelings. AND PRINCESS GLISSELDA! So composed and competent and so sweet to Seraphina.
Seriously. The friendship between Glisselda and Seraphina. WHAT I WOULDN'T GIVE TO SEE MORE OF THIS IN YA. Glisselda is engaged to Kiggs, whom Seraphina finds herself in love with, and yet she and Glisselda remain wonderful friends and it's clear that Seraphina doesn't want to jeopardise their friendship. She doesn't ever resent Glisselda for being Kiggs' fiancée. She shows admiration for Glisselda because Glisselda is awesome and totally deserves admiration. It's lovely.
SERAPHINA was just excellent and emotionally engaging from start to finish and absolutely my cup of tea. It's so impressively complex and rich and there's just so much to marvel at in just one book. I can't wait for SHADOW SCALE.