Thursday, January 3, 2013
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Unabridged MP3 audiobook, 13 hours, 14 minutes. Read by Mandy Williams, Listening Library, Inc. July, 2012. 9780307968937. (Purchased.)
Sixteen-year-old Seraphina doesn't like the spotlight because she has a secret to hide. But she's inquisitive and brave and is also terrifically musical, a talent she inherited from her mother. Unfortunately, that's not the only thing Seraphina inherited. She has scales, as in dragon's scales. Her mother was a dragon, who passed as human, fell in love with the queen's lawyer, hid this small detail from him and died giving birth to her daughter.
Dragons and humans in the kingdom of Goredd have abided by a treaty uneasily for the past forty years. There's lots of racism on each side, but a half-breed is unheard of. In fact, Seraphina's mother was expelled from her family and dragonkind for mating with a human. Her father took pains to keep Seraphina out of sight until her musical talent burst forth and could not be contained. She's now assistant music mistress at court, music instructor and friend to the heir to the crown as well as friend to the princess' fiance.
And that's just the beginning of the intrigue. I can't remember being sucked into a world quickly and so completely. I was instantly smitten by Seraphina - her voice, her intellect, her moral compass. The worldbuilding was vivid and fascinating. I could see Goredd in my mind's eye. This debut definitely lived up to the hype and, I wouldn't mind visiting again should there be a sequel.
Mandy Williams' voice was perfect for Seraphina. Tinkling and musical, with just the right amount of reserve and humor. The voices she uses for the large cast of characters were distinctive and unique. I'm glad that I chose to read it first with my ears. Although I am a huge fantasy fan, I find that the unusual names, places and objects can be stumbling blocks for me. Hearing it read fluidly helps me become immersed in the setting. Did I mention the worldbuilding? So fine.
Give this utterly original fantasy to middle school fans of dragon stories, especially fans of that other dragon series, the one that, um borrows heavily from better stories.