Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
All her life, Seraphina has had to hide the truth about herself, believing she is a monster. Still, musical talent like hers cannot remain hidden forever, so eventually she takes a risk and applies for the job of assistant music mistress to the court composer. This role brings her to the attention of the royal family, including Prince Lucian Kiggs, Captain of the Queen's Guard. Against her will, Seraphina finds herself drawn into the spotlight as she helps Kiggs uncover the truth of his uncle's murder. Her connection to her Uncle Orma, a scholarly dragon living incognito in his saarantras (human body), gives her a unique perspective, as does her connection to the other half dragon/half humans she once thought were only visions in her mental garden. Seraphina fights to protect her secrets even as she races against the clock to thwart assassination attempts on the royal family and the Ardmagar, ruler of the dragons, on the 40th anniversary of the Treaty between the Goreddi people and dragonkind.
Hartman does an outstanding job of world-building. I do wish I'd realized sooner that there is a glossary at the end of the book. The vocabulary level is quite high and includes words Hartman invented, so there were many times when I discerned the meaning of a term purely through contextual clues. Ostensibly this is a young adult (i.e. teen) fantasy novel, but adult fantasy readers should enjoy it every bit as much, if not more than teens.
I will now be impatiently awaiting the next book in the series, Dracomachia, which is scheduled to come out some time later this year (nothing more specific than "2013" so far).
For readers' advisors: setting and story doorways are primary, although character and language are not far behind. All swearing is made up (St. Masha and St. Daan!), and there is no sex or nudity, just a couple of kisses.
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