“Sometimes the truth has difficulty breaching the city walls of our beliefs. A lie, dressed in the correct livery, passes through more easily.”
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.
TW: parent death, murder, self-harm
From the start, I was ready to be invested in Seraphina. I mean, come on. It’s very blatantly about dragons, and very obviously about a girl with a foot in both the human and dragon worlds. The summary had me totally ready to dive in because dragons and the struggle to find a place for oneself are two of my favorite things in my fiction. It’s like this book was just made for me.
And then I got a little lost.
See, as a kid, I had horrible stage fright (still do, tbh), and I never learned how to play an instrument. I know next to nothing about music and how to make it properly, and so much of this book is grounded in Seraphina’s musical talents as the court composer’s esteemed assistant. Thankfully, there was a glossary in the back of the book (which had the virtue of being not only charming, but helpful!), but I was definitely in over my head and regretting not working to get over that stage fright. It didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the story, but if you try this book, be aware of the musical roots, because they can be A LOT.
After I got over that hill, I was totally enamored with this book. I absolutely loved Seraphina, especially because she grew into this phenomenal, straightforward character with confidence in herself and the actions she takes, even the difficult ones. The side characters were a delight, too. I went from wary of Orma to pretty damn attached, and of course, I ended up loving Lucian Kiggs. It’s the ones with a cheery, passionate side underneath stoic duty that I just adore, okay? And Kiggs fit the bill to a T, especially with his dedication to the patron saint of truth. AND Glisselda, the princess, managed to grow on me by the story’s end, especially with the short story about how she met Seraphina in the back of the book since apparently I picked up an edition with bonus content. She’s eager and sharp, absolutely ready to hold her own at court.
Plus, there were certain character interactions I had the biggest heart eyes for. I won’t spoil them, but it qualifies SO MUCH as slow burn, and there’s a lot of formal titles/”oh no, don’t call me by my title, call me by my first name/nickname” and I AM SUCH A SAP FOR THAT.
Seriously. The formal titles thing is one of my favorite tropes, especially if characters only use formal titles until their loved one is in danger and all formal titles go out the window. It’s a good trope, okay? It’s such a good trope and I am so predictable whenever it comes out.
As for the plot, I was by and large impressed! There were a couple of twists I didn’t even see coming despite looking for them, and I’m so excited to get my hands on the sequel because I HAVE TO KNOW what’s coming next. The joys of getting into a finished series, right?
Really, I think my only complaint is that the middle lagged a tiny bit, and that this is more political fantasy than adventure fantasy. Some people love political fantasy (you do you!), but I’m more of the action and adventure type for sure, and there wasn’t nearly enough of that for my tastes.
On the whole, though, Seraphina was fun and exciting, with a world I’m interested in coming back to, and characters that better JUST KISS SOME MORE ALREADY thanks. They’re killing me. Send help.
Have you read Seraphina before? What did you think? Should I be grabbing Shadow Scale ASAP? And if you haven’t, what are your favorite dragon books? Do you like political fantasy, or more actiony fantasy?