Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (2012)

seraA unique YA fantasy about a girl who must hide her half-dragon ancestry in a court thick with tension between humans and dragons and reeling from a murder

Recommended grade level: 7-12

Pages: 515 (for ISBN 9780375866227)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy

Tone/Style: sensible

Pace: moderate

Topics: dragons, royalty, political tension, secrets, music, murder

Themes: identity, family, other-ness

Summary: 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. (Source)

Who will like this book?: Fantasy fans, especially fans of high fantasy and dragons, are naturally the prime audience for this one. A juicy secret and an impossible romance keep things interesting. Mystery fans who are open to a fantasy setting may enjoy the murder element of the plot.

Who won’t like this book?: It’s a long book, and though there’s enough intrigue to keep it moving along, it still may be too much for some readers. High fantasy is a bit of a niche genre, so make sure readers are open to it before recommending this title.

Other comments: I read so much medieval-style fantasy when I was a middle schooler that to this day I’m still a little sick of it, but Seraphina reminded me why I loved the genre so much. Well-plotted, exciting, emotional, and inventive, it deserves a place among the fantasy classics.

Sequel(s): Shadow Scale (2015)

Readalikes: Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey also features a heroine who is secretly part dragon. Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle is another complex dragon-centered series. For readers who like the sassy Seraphina character, try The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede for dragons, humor, and a fabulously self-sufficient princess. Sabriel by Garth Nix and Graceling by Kristin Cashore are some other fantasy titles with tough and resourceful heroines.

-Kylie

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