Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina and Shadowscale. Ah, what to say about this duology. I read both of these books this past July and I have been unable to write a review ever since. Even now, as I type, I really have no clue how to articulate my thoughts, so let’s start with the overarching plot shall we.
Dragons and humans have been at peace for forty years after an era of war between the two. When the story begins, the dragons and humans are about to celebrate the anniversary of that treaty with a delegation of dragons visiting the human-run city of Lavondaville in the kingdom of Goredd. Seraphina, as assistant to the wonderful Viridius, court composer, is at the heart of preparations. She becomes further embroiled in the affairs of dragons and humans when she finds herself in a position to aid the prince and princess in their efforts to solve their uncle’s death and decapitation, suspected to be the work of a dragon, an event which could severely harm the tenuous-at-best relationship between humans and dragons.
And so begins the two-book tale which revolves around Seraphina’s role as mediator and peacekeeper between the world of dragons and that of humans, and in the civil war between two groups of dragons, those who want the treaty to continue and those who would much prefer to go back to the old ways. SPOILERS LIE AHEAD Seraphina is half-dragon, half-human, and much of the duology revolves around her trying to find and gather together others like her. Their unique perspective and their unique abilities position them to end the growing tensions and attacks between the two warring parties. Her attempt to bring them all together is complicated by one of her kind, an insidious and frustrating half-dragon who can worm her way into the minds of others and who does so with the express intent of, like Seraphina, drawing all the half-dragons together. Unlike Seraphina, Jannoula’s interests do not lie in peace, but in domination. I loved this focus. I loved the way both Seraphina and Jannoula are, on the most basic of levels, looking for family, looking for others like them. Both are operating from a position of almost desperation for acceptance and love; however, their very different upbringings has shifted their ultimate desires quite drastically. SPOILERS OVER
The world Hartman has created is wonderfully and intricately built, the characters are heartbreakingly complex, and the story feels perfectly illustrative of many real-world problems we have today. I think my problem articulating my thoughts for so long is directly related to how amazingly complex this story is. If you haven’t yet read it, I suggest doing so!