Hartman’s debut novel opens just before the anniversary of the signing of a peace treaty between dragons and men; Crown Prince Rufus is found beheaded on the eve of the anniversary, it seems to indicate a dragon has committed murder.
Our heroine, the teenaged Seraphina, is assistant music mistress at the court in Goredd in charge of arranging the music for the Prince’s funeral. Having promised never to play music in public, she is forced to do so at the funeral…. and this, among other things, brings her to the attention of Prince Lucian Kiggs, head of security, which leads then to the series of events that lead into the rest of the book.
It’s probably a good thing that I can’t reveal more of the story without spoiling it for those who haven’t read it yet, but it does not make for a very lengthy review! Instead of adding spoilers, let me just say that the book is highly reminiscent of Kristin Cashore’s Fire which I reviewed some time ago. Yet again, a book listed as young adult intrigues and fascinates me. It just revalidates my penchant for scanning that section of libraries and bookshops whenever I can!
Hartman has a refreshing take on dragons and their interaction with humankind. As some authors have done before (Le Guin, Weis and more recently Sapkowski), her dragons have a human form - saarantrai, well described and eminently believable. Her characterisation, plot lines and insight into feelings and emotions are well expressed in good language (despite my general pedantic dislike of Americanisms used in plenty).
Above all, this is an intelligent book. I loved it. Highly recommended.
The only downside? The sequel isn’t out yet!