THIS WAS GREAT. For reals.
I really liked this one. It reminded me a lot of Uprooted, which is still on track to be my favorite book of the year (as evidenced by the fact that I bring it up in so many other reviews GIVE IT A REST, JENNIE). Interesting that they both involve dragons. Well. “Interesting.” Also, “dragons.” Anyway.
(I’m not sure this needs to be said at this point of Cannonball but please forgive me if I can’t remember all the facts for this novel. It’s been a few weeks (ha!) since I finished it.)
Seraphina lives in a world of dragons. These dragons are different than the ones we’re used to, however. These aren’t Game of Thrones dragons. These dragons have learned how to take human form, though they don’t really understand human emotions (SAME, dragons) and will actually extract bits of their brains if they begin to feel them. Long ago, humans and dragons were enemies but have signed a treaty and are at peace when the novel begins.
Seraphina is a royal musician, a very talented one at that, but she’s hiding something huge. You see, her mother was a dragon and her father was human. The fact that she’s alive is a miracle (I CAN’T HELP IT), but she knows others won’t see it that way, so she hides it. The only others who know are her father, and her uncle, a dragon who is hiding himself in human form. The only indication that Seraphina is different than other humans is that she’s got a layer of scales covering her stomach and one of her arms. She goes to great lengths to hide these.
She also has a highly evolved mind palace. Each night, she has to spend time tending the garden, as she calls it, to quiet the souls who live inside her mind. They are a collection of oddities, people that Seraphina thinks are figments of her imagination until they begin to show up in her real life. Thus begins a series of events that will cause her great alarm and quite a bit of suffering for those she loves. But it’s OK because she’s smart and brave and not afraid to do the right thing and THINGS ALWAYS WORK OUT FOR THOSE PEOPLE, RIGHT?
There’s also a love story, because there has to be, but I enjoyed that it took a backseat to the real problems in the novel. Though Seraphina begins to feel strong feelings for Lucian, the prince who is betrothed to the princess, his cousin (incest, cool), she puts these aside for the greater good. Which has to suck, yeah? It’s hard to be a good person, that’s why most of us are only sort of good, at best.
The inclusion of dragons in a fantasy novel is nothing new, but I thought the way that Hartman works them into her novel was extremely clever. I have to say I’ve never read anything quite like this and I look forward to reading more.