The book: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons and humans live and work side by side – while below the surface, tensions and hostility simmer.
The newest member of the royal court, a uniquely gifted musician named Seraphina, holds a deep secret of her own. One that she guards with all of her being.
When a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive—and dashing—Prince Lucien. But as the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina’s struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult… while its discovery could mean her very life.
How I found it: I don't remember the exact circumstances leading to the purchase of this specific copy last year, but I've been aware of the book since it came out in 2012. From the mid-90s through the early 2000s, Rachel Hartman wrote a minicomic, set in Goredd some years earlier, called Amy Unbounded, which was a delightful coming-of-age story about a young girl having adventures and learning her place in the world. (Sadly, the series is out of print, but it's worth tracking them down if you're interested, especially if there's a young girl in your life who needs an introduction to the world of comics.) So Seraphina went on my mental TBR, but I'm sure you all know how that can go.
What inspired me to read it now: Hartman's latest book, Tess of the Road, is a finalist for the Lodestar (the Not-a-Hugo Award for Best YA Book), and although I gather that it's not a direct sequel, I still wanted to read the Seraphina duology first.
The verdict: I have no idea why I waited so long to read this book, because it's a delight, although I could wish that the main character had read the situation and not waited quite so long to have some key honest conversations. (I find this trope particularly irritating, which is why I rounded my Goodreads rating down to four stars instead of up to five.) I fell in love with Seraphina as a narrator immediately, and I also adored Princess Glisselda and her best friend Millie. And also the prickly scholar Orma and the dashing and dogged Prince Lucian Kiggs. I could sit here and name favorites all day -- this world is full of fascinating characters, almost all of whom are easy to like (or dislike, in the case of many of the antagonists). Hartman's worldbuilding is both deep and intriguing, especially in the cases where she only drops hints -- draconic society, Goreddi religion (especially the heretic St. Yirtrudis -- I'm dying to learn more about her), the details of Goredd's relationship with its other neighbors. I also like her take on dragons: they are humanized and alien at the same time, just as any sentient species living among us would be. There are dozens of stories left to tell in this universe, and I will read every single one of them.
( More thoughts, with spoilers. )
The primary goal of this Tales from the TBR series is to encourage me to read books that I already own. Although successful in this case, I have to call it a mixed success, because as soon as I finish this, I'm buying the sequel, because I have to know what happens next. Worth it, I'd say.