Seraphina is a court musician and an important one as she is deputy to the court composer, Viridius, and handles much of the teaching of the younger musicians. Music is in her blood but to a certain extent she has to hide some of her vast talent because she has a huge secret. Her father of course knows that secret and is insistent that she keep a low profile. Easier said than done when Seraphina is in charge of Princess Glisselda's music lessons.
The princess is the Queen's grand-daughter, the queen who made peace with the dragons some forty years ago after a long war. The peace is popular with some and not with others. Dragons have learned how to take human form and are now teachers in the university, one of them, Orma, is a mentor to Seraphina and he too knows her secret.
The peace is fragile and becomes even more so when a royal prince, Rufus, is murdered. His head has been bitten off and suspicion falls upon dragonkind as this is one of their methods of killing. Seraphina does not believe they are responsible and because Princess Glisselda always listens to her, finds herself investigating the murder along with Glisselda's fiance, Prince Lucian Kiggs, Captain of the Queen's Guards. It's a poisoned chalice sort of a task. She must at all costs keep her secret, but Lucian is an intuitive sort of person and soon realises that Seraphina is not what she seems. Lies have become a way of life for Seraphina. How she will find a murderer and still keep her secret will be one of the most difficult tasks of her young life.
You know how some books start slow and you get to about page 50 and you still don't know what all the fuss is about with regard to certain books? And then you get to around page 100 and you think, 'Ah... now I get it.' Well that's how this book was for me. I'm not even sure what kept me reading to be honest. Dragons perhaps? Seraphina herself? A hint of romance? The mystery of who killed the prince? All those things perhaps. Whatever it was I'm glad I did as I ended up enjoying it so much I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.
Seraphina herself is a fascinating protaganist. Conflicted, full of guilt for something that wasn't her fault, dangerously ambivilent in nature, life is hard for this poor girl. I liked her determination to make a good life for herself, despite these drawbacks, and spent the entire book cheering her on. She alone makes this book worth reading.
It's quite a complicated world that Rachel Hartman has created here. Dragons and humans have one of the most uneasy truces you can imagine and as with all situations like this there is no black and white. The Humans are good and bad and so are the dragons. The conflict this creates makes for a good novel and although I'm not really a 'court intrigue' sort of a person I still enjoyed this aspect of the book. I'm also a bit of a sucker for any hint of romance and this was another instance where you had to feel very sorry for Seraphina. Hopefully that will resolve itself in future books but I actually don't mind a bit of drawn-out angsty romance.
All in all I think it was the mix of all kinds of threads and situations which eventually sucked me, hook line and sinker, into this book. I ended up loving it and am now after book 2, Shadow Scale, which came out last month.