Thursday, September 13, 2012
In a land where dragons can kill humans on a whim with all of their reptilian power and strength, but humans can band together and be the first real threat the dragons have encountered, a truce between the two would be delicate at best. In Rachel Hartman's Seraphina, a land where the dragons walk amongst the humans is also a land filled with danger, mistrust, and extreme prejudice.
In order for the dragons to participate in daily activities and government, they must fold themselves into human form. While they immediately look human, there are undeniable dragon traits like silver blood, a lack of human emotion or sensitivity to social constructs, and the bells dragons must wear to identify themselves. The treaty struck years ago allows this delicate balance to hold, but humans and dragons alike despise living together. There are plenty of people who would stop at nothing to see the treaty fail, even by killing the crowned prince.
Seraphina has always had to keep to the shadows and stay out of the public eye because her true nature is something that makes her an abomination in the eyes of both humans in dragons- she is the daughter of a human father and a dragon mother. Inter-species reproduction is forbidden, and for all Seraphina knows, she is the only one. But her mother left her with more than just scales she must keep hidden to avoid detection- she left her with maternal memories that give Seraphina insight into the dragon and human worlds. These maternal memories coupled with Seraphina's mind (and the odd collection of people swirling around inside it) help her to find her way out of a darkened corner and into the light of truth, but truth isn't always easy. Especially when she has grown close to the prince in an effort to solve the mystery of his uncle's murder.
Seraphina was truly high fantasy. With a dynamic and living fictitious world, new beings and creatures, and a language that required a glossary at the end of the book, this is not a fantasy for those who are just dabbling in the genre. It required a lot of patience and focus to truly enjoy. In fact, as school started and things got hectic for me, I actually had to put it down because reading in between speaking to parents and pre-school meetings was leaving me confused and frustrated with the story. I am actually very glad I put it down and saved it for a better time, because if I had forced myself to read it then, I wouldn't have appreciated it as much as I did by waiting. So be aware that this is a beautiful and intricate story, but you must have the time to devote to careful reading or you will miss the beauty of the story.
That is why this story is best left for an older, stronger reader, preferably one who is into fantasy already. There is a confusing element to the story about these people who roam around Seraphina's head (and she puts them "into a garden" and "tends to them"), but it begins to make more sense later in the story. At first it seemed like a totally unnecessary and confusing element, but once the true nature behind it was revealed, it made a lot more sense. So if you like true fantasy and dragons, you will want to check out Seraphina, if for no other reason than to bear witness to the ugly face of racism against dragons!