Sixteen-year-old Seraphina Dombegh is hardly like others in the land of Goredd, and not just because of her extraordinary musical talent. Her mother was a saarantras—a dragon in human form—and although the Goreddi-dragon treaty signed forty years ago frames the two species as allies, intolerance remains rampant between them. Seraphina only keeps this secret by remaining out of the spotlight, but when she is apprenticed to the court musician, Viridius, this becomes much more difficult. Especially as, with the anniversary of the treaty approaching, tensions rise between dragons and humans.
Crown Prince Rufus is killed in a mysteriously draconian fashion. The leader of the dragons comes to Goredd, but perhaps is therefore placed in terrible danger. Sightings of strange shapes in the night come from exiled knights. As more and more pieces of the puzzle begin to be uncovered, Seraphina must join forces with Prince Lucian Kiggs, the perceptive captain of the guard, on a quest not just to save Goredd, but to accept herself.
Seraphina is a multilayered, engrossing fantasy novel full of well-defined characters and intricate worldbuilding. Seraphina is one of my favorite main characters, equal parts sympathetic and flawed, many-layered and understandable. Her emotional and internal journey is what makes this book so beautiful and strong: it’s about more than dragons and court intrigue, it’s about a girl who is, despite her mixed ancestry, deeply and beautifully human. Her choices and decisions make this story much more than it might have been otherwise.
That said, Seraphina is one of my favorite books for other reasons, too. Goredd and the surrounding lands (though fleshed out more fully in the sequel, Shadow Scale) feel very real; the same can be said for all the supporting characters, who are unique and interesting. The plot, similar to a mystery, is full of twists, court intrigue, and unexpected realizations; it reminds me a little of books such as Shadow and Bone and The Candle and the Flame. Overall, I highly recommend Seraphina to readers ages twelve and up looking for a strong heroine, a complex plot, and an engrossing story which you won’t want to leave.