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.
When I first read the summary for this book, my palms began to itch uncontrollably. I could not wait to get my hands on it! When I finally got it, I dropped everything and sat down to read. It took a while to get into it, but once I did I could not put it down.
The world building is so rich and vivid, the supporting characters are real and hilarious, and the plot has layers within layers. And dragons can shape-shift into human form. Bonus!!
As the story unfolds, the plot gets even more complex—deliciously so. The pacing could have gone faster (hence it took me a while to get into it…a long while, like 150 pages), but that doesn’t bother me as much as it might others. If I like a character, then I will follow him/her through the story no matter how long it takes. And I loved Seraphina. She is so realistically caught between her two worlds, and the writing reflects it perfectly. I identified with her in a big way.
Believing she is the only one of her kind (and knowing the extreme consequences if she’s discovered), she lives her life in neither dragon nor human world. She’s in the human world on the surface, and it’s too dangerous for her to go to the dragon world because she'll be discovered. She can’t identify with either world because no one can understand her situation, and she can’t risk trusting anyone with her secret. Then, we learn more about her garden of grotesques…I am completely hooked on the possibilities that can come from this.
The romance was interesting, but certainly not the most compelling part of the story. I’m wondering how it will be explored in future books, though. I’m very glad it didn’t turn into a wretched love triangle, and I liked how Seraphina came to terms with her feelings. Actually, the best part of the whole story is the complexity of the relationships. Seraphina’s relationship with her uncle and her father, the grotesques in her ‘garden,’ and Princess Glisselda are deep and intricate. Which goes against how Seraphina tries to keep herself away from anything that goes beyond the surface. The contrast is compelling.
If pacing isn’t the most important part of a story to you, then you will probably enjoy the rich and fulfilling plot. And the last ten to fifteen chapters will leave you on the edge of your seat.