Narrated by Mandy Williams and Justine Eyre
Length: 13 hours 15 minutes
In this exciting hybrid genre of fantasy, science fiction and just a touch of steampunk, the compelling story of Seraphina Dombegh and her dragon compatriots takes its readers on a journey of majestic heights of intrigue and secrecy. The town of Goredd is an ancient civilization where there is a definite distinction between human and dragon. Though the dragons in this tale are magnificent beings that can fold themselves into human form and hold high positions in government and science, most of the citizenry both fear and loathe them, though they do have some friends in high places. Goredd has held a peace treaty with dragonkind for 40 years, and in this seminal year, the treaty is to be rewritten and redeemed, much to the chagrin of those who distrust the dragons. In this expansive civilization lives a maid named Seraphina Dombegh, who is the daughter of one of the country’s highest government officials. Seraphina, whose mother died in childbirth, is virtually raised by a dragon in human form named Orma, whose didactical views of humans and their emotions makes for great amusement for the young girl. Seraphina is also the chief music teacher to the irascible princess of the castle, where she meets the bastard prince Lucien Kiggs. When a plot to destroy the negotiations between dragonkind and humankind is discovered, it is up to the unlikely band of royal successors, Seraphina, and Orma to figure out how to stop it before society crumbles into war and mayhem. But lurking behind all of this is a secret that threatens to change Seraphina’s world forever. Will the foursome be able to stop the destruction of the city in time, and will Lucien Kiggs ever notice an inconsequential maid like Seraphina? These questions and many more form the heart and soul of this beautiful and emotionally deft novel that blends fantasy and compassionate humanity in perfect harmony.
This audiobook was a departure for me. When I read Swapna’s mini review over at S. Krishna’s Reviews, I wondered how I would do with a fantasy tale, of which I do not read many. Now, my daughter loves dragons, and could tell you just about anything you wanted to know about the many different types and species and so forth, but I am, well... a dragon newbie. This book, narrated by Mandy Williams and Justine Eyre, was well worth the time I spent dithering over whether or not I was a dragon person. Mandy Williams does the majority of the narration, and her voice is young, but not untrained. She had a wonderfully lilting British accent and was very interesting to listen to, especially when she voiced the parts of Orma, whom she befitted with a puzzled and almost innocent voice. Justine Eyre was more of a bit player in the narration, with her parts being interspersed within the story as recollections from Seraphina’s mother. Both did an outstanding job and both were able to successfully carry this baroque and thrilling tale into a tale full of beguilement and suspense.
Seraphina is a young girl without pretensions, and the only thing that separates her from the many masses of maids at the castle is her outstanding voice. This voice is so elevated that she has been gifted with the tutelage of the princess, and the apprenticeship to the master of music of the castle. Unlike most of the population, Seraphina is not fearful and loathing of dragons. This has more to do with the love and care that has been lavished on her by the dragon disguised as a human named Orma than any other influence. Orma is not an expressive creature, but for reasons that Seraphina doesn’t yet understand, he is charged with her upbringing and does his best to instill her with the values and virtues that gain her the admiration of all. She is a bright girl, but is coming to understand that there are things about herself that she doesn’t understand and secrets that others are unwilling to share with her. There is another strange puzzlement about Seraphina: she has a mind that is filled with creatures that need her daily care and tending. These creatures, called her grotesques, are all strange and otherworldly, and seem to exist only in her mind. But if anyone should ever find out about them, it would spell danger for her.
For 40 years, the dragons and humans have lived in peace under the treaty of Goredd, but that peace is fragile and there are both humans and dragons who wish to destroy it. But in a year of vital importance, this treaty is to be celebrated and re-pledged. It is a tenuous time for the city and all its inhabitants when the unthinkable happens, and a dragon attacks a member of the royal family. Needless to say, the hunt is on for the attacker, and no dragon, even in human form, is safe. Buried to the hilt in secrets and intrigue, Seraphina and her royal friends, the princess and Lucien Kiggs, decide that they must find out the truth before the fragile bonds of both species is broken forever. I admit that I was totally ensnared in this story and found that the blend between the very specific politics of Goredd and the personal trials of the heroine kept me enthralled every step of the way. As more and more is revealed, the danger becomes potent and universal. Nothing is safe. Everyone is a suspect. Add to this the fact that Seraphina is discovering some unpleasant truths about herself, and the story becomes unstoppable.
There is a slight romantic element to this tale, but it’s not overdone and barely even creeps out of the woodwork. After all, the two players are not free to to entangle, so to speak. With Seraphina’s mind garden creeping out of control and the appearance of a menacing presence that was thought to be slain years ago, it seems unlikely that peace will be able to be held together. But in the stirrings of her heart, Seraphina has the information she now needs to prove a powerful force, and it will cost her everything to unleash it. So entranced was I with this book that I carried my iPod around everywhere, sneaking listens whenever I could. I must warn you though, this book is part of a series, and I do expect to listen to the next installment with the same ravenousness that I did this one.
You might think that this one is not for you because it’s fantasy, or science fiction, or because it has dragons in it, but trust me, this book transcends genres and is a heart pumping delight. It wasn’t over the top or silly, and it wasn’t dark and malevolent. It was the story of a strange girl finding her way in an even stranger society, and it knocked my socks off. If you’re looking for something that is different and that takes energy and action to a new level, check this one out. The audio is fabulous, but I bet it would fare just as well in print. An eclectic mix of the new and bold. Highly recommended.