Seraphina (Seraphina #1) - Rachel Hartman
Wow, I honestly don't know how to describe this one. I was expecting a more 'typical' combination of YA and dragons. What I was NOT expecting was:

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  • political intrigues

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  • royal drama

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  • tending gardens of the human mind

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  • serious fangirling over art, with the emphasis on serious

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  • dragons with Asperger's syndrome



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Right, so Prince Rufus is murdered; his headless body has been found in the forest. Because of this, the humans expect it's the work of a dragon. Which technically can't be the case, because there has been a treaty between the humans and the dragons (a.k.a. the 'saars')for forty years now. The dragons are walking amongst the humans in their human forms (a.k.a. saarantrai), but are obliged to wear silver bells, so it's instantly clear to everyone that they're dealing with a dragon. The treaty is more one of a mutual tolerance instead of one of trust and respect. In fact, they really don't like each other at all, and the murder of Prince Rufus really stirs things up again.

Seraphina is a 16-year-old girl with an extraordinary gift for music. She's the assistant of the Royal Court composer and teaches the young Princess Glisselda how to play certain instruments. When I say certain instruments, I mean that most of the instruments in this book are medieval versions of the instruments we know nowadays.
Her own music teacher used to be a dragon, Orma, who is still dear to her in many ways.

For reasons I can't describe here, "Seraphina is drawn into the investigation of Prince Rufus' murder, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life."

It's hard to describe the rest of the story because A. it's so complex and B. it would contain too many spoilers.
It took me a long time to get into it because there are so many terms and details. You just have to go with the flow, and trust it will all make sense at some point. Which it luckily did for me eventually(also thanks to the helpful glossary at the end of the book).

The dragons are interesting because of their ability to change into a human form (something I encountered in Dragons of Autumn Twilight as well though) and their lack of truly getting the hang of acting as a human being. Displaying emotions turns out to be the biggest challenge. Everything seems to be a mathematical equation to them.

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Furthermore, hurray, another female character I liked! That's the second time now in the past few weeks. Even though she gets a bit weepy due to emotional/mental issues from time to time, she still knows how to kick ass. Dame Okra Carmine was even better, though. You certainly don't want to mess with her.

I think this is a very impressive debut novel with intriguing and unique world building elements. On the other hand, it was also a bit too much at times. Too many details digressing from the storyline. I also saw the plot coming a mile away. I mean, I was hoping it would get a nice twist and I kept reading and reading to find out, yet then got disappointed because it turned out exactly like I thought it would. You know when you're watching a murder mystery and the writers make you want to think it's a certain someone after the first 10 minutes in? It's quite disappointing when it actually turns out to BE that person.

I ended up giving it 3.5 stars and a frown.