Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Though dragons and people have been at peace since the signing of a treaty four decades ago, there remains a high level of unease and mistrust. For their part, dragons have learned to take on human form and mannerisms - something that has allowed them to interact more closely with human - even if the particulars of polite conversation continue to elude them and relations between the two races is forbidden. And then there is Seraphina. Born to a dragon mother and a human father, she must keep the truth of her origins a secret. With a member of the royal family murdered days before the impending 40th anniversary celebration of the peace, (possibly by a dragon) Seraphina finds herself assisting with the investigation and spending a lot of time with the Prince. As she works to unravel the truth behind what happened it becomes harder and harder to protect her own dangerous truth.
I've said before, and I'll say again that I'm not really a big fantasy reader. It takes a special story - like Kristen Cashore's Graceling - to get me aboard the fantasy train. Rachel Hartman's Seraphina is one of those stories. The story unfolds at a slow, but even pace, and there's a lot of ground to cover. Not only must the reader become acquainted to a new world where dragons and people interact (including the requisite vocabulary of said world), there's also the inner-workings of Seraphina's "condition" that must be explained, including the time-consuming routines she must keep to protect her true identity and how the memories her mother imparted to her shape her understanding of the world. It's a lot. But it is necessary. And it is worth it. Happily, the background information is built into the progression of the action; the reader learns about Seraphina as she learns about herself. In a year with few strong young adult fantasy releases, Seraphina does the genre proud.
Seraphina is the winner of the 2013 William C. Morris Award and is one of the 2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adult titles!
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