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I'm better at writing than talking, and better at reading than either.

Seraphina - Rachel Hartman Seraphina Dombegh has just begun her new job as assistant to the court composer when Prince Rufus is murdered, in a suspiciously draconian fashion. Despite four decades of peace between dragons and humans, the Prince’s murder awakens deep-seated distrust and animosity. Unfortunately, Seraphina, the daughter of the court’s expert on the Treaty between Dragons and Humans, is stuck in the middle and forced to use her unusual knowledge of dragons to suss out the killer… before it’s too late.

Seraphina has some truly imaginative metaphors. “Samsamese highlanders had invented the [bagpipe] as a means of threatening each other’s mountain enclaves; it made a sound like a mountain shaking its fist at those bastards across the way.” The rest of the novel is filled with lots of giggle-inducing imagery. Ordinarily, I’d find overuse of metaphor (especially when it doesn’t advance the plot) frustrating, but, here, I was enthralled.

The cast of characters is large. So large that the author kindly provided a list at the back of the book. Each character is deftly described: Fruit Bat, Miss Fusspots, Glisselda, Josef Apsig, even Linn (who’s been dead for 16 years) and the Comonot. From the subconscious expressions they make to the way they talk or walk or shout at each other, each character is believeable and real. They’re actions, words and personalities make sense (even when it’s a total red-herring).

Phina is incredibly easy to like. She’s intelligent, and aware of the importance of intelligence, but not arrogant about it, either. She’s sardonic, but mostly only towards herself, it’s rarely directed at others. She’s reasonably insecure, partly out of need to protect herself, but also because most people are at least a little bit.

The accidental love interest, Prince Kiggs, is intelligent, focussed and the Captain of the Queen’s Guard. Despite that, he seemed to become delightfully awkward around Seraphina. This was a man who clearly kept a stern leash on his emotions, but whenever Phina was around, that guard slipped a little.

It was also really delightful to read a novel where the heroine and hero were actually compatible with each other. In far too many romances, “sparks” or “sexual tension” or “a mysterious connection” bind together two people who otherwise would not fit. Phina and Kiggs had similar senses of humor, interests in philosophy, and feelings on loyalty and truth (although, the latter sometimes put them at odds with each other). When they finally came together, it was, happily, unsurprising. Although not without it’s own problems. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of how they handle their responsibilities in the next two novels

It’s something of a pet peeve of mine when narrator’s explain the inner workings of their religion, culture, history. Seraphina offers glimpses into the backstory of Goreddi, without actually sharing anything in detail. We never really find out who all the saints are, or what they’re aspects are; we never find out how long the dragon/human war lasted before the treaty, or how many other countries participated in it. Will we learn more in the next two books? Maybe, hopefully, but, l kind of like not knowing everything. Ultimately, the plot moved along without it, and who says world-building requires telling the reader every minute detail? I don’t’ know everything about the real world, why should I expect to know it about a fictional one? Besides, Phina’s got more important things to do than infodump every aspect of her culture, she’s got a murder to solve, people!

The plot itself is your basic “whodunit.” Find out who murdered the prince. Unfortunately, that part of the plot got very little attention until the last half of the novel. Still, I enjoyed the wait.