September 17, 2012
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
In Seraphina’s world, dragons are seen as cold intellectuals, incapable of music or any other art, because they lack emotion.
But they can take on human form and when they do, things happen because they often take on human emotion as well. When this happens, the censors take the offending dragon back home for a surgical procedure that removes not only the emotion but many of the memories connected to it as well. Dragons, after all, see human emotion as a disease.
For their part, humans are certain that dragons are no more than animals. When in their human forms, they must wear a bell that warns all around of their presence. In some parts of town, it isn’t safe for such a dragon to walk the streets.
This leaves Seraphina desperate to guard a secret. Why? Because she is half dragon. Her mother was a beautiful musician who hid her true identity until she died giving birth. Only then did her husband know he had broken the law. Seraphina too is a gifted musician who joys in sharing her love of music with those around her. Her joy is damped by the need for caution. Attract too much attention and someone might suspect. Draw too many eyes and someone might see the scales that circle her lower arm. And it isn’t just hatred that could come down on her but also a death sentence. How do you keep out of sight when you are the second ranking musician in the Queen’s court?
She gives up hiding her identity when she must help guard a dragon diplomat. If something should happen to him or her own queen, the peace between dragon and human will be shattered. But who can Seraphina trust? She assembles a surprising band of accomplices in this fascinating fantasy tale.
While there is a lot of action in a few places, this is definitely what my son calls a “girl book.” A lot happens but there is also lots of pondering. What can I say? The thirteen year-old isn’t much given to pondering.
The reading level may be 6th grade, but the themes felt mature to me. An advanced younger reader might not connect with it and there are definitely tasteless “ribald” jokes that you might have to explain.
I can see this book appealing to musicians. There were several places when she was working with the court orchestra or choir that I swear I could hear my own choir director. “Commit yourself to the note! Even if it isn’t THE note, it will sound fine if you commit!”
In addition to the pure enjoyment, this book could definitely provide a discussion point concerning prejudice and fear and religion and how they move society. As I made my way through the book, I caught myself wondering if this was intentional on Hartman’s part. Let’s just say it seemed very newsworthy.
Part fantasy, part mystery and full of intrigue. Put this one on your reading list today!