In the land of Gorred, dragons walk among humans in human-like bodies as scholars and dignitaries. Though humans and dragons live together, their uneasy relationship persists as the memory of the dragon wars lives on. Dragons – logical, intelligent, skilled and engineering and technology – are the opposites of the Luddite Gorredis, who value art, emotion, and religion. Stuck somewhere in the middle is Seraphina Dombegh, newly appointed assistant composer at the court of Gorred, who must hide the terrible secret of her existence: she is half-human, half-dragon. Seraphina lives in constant fear of her true identity as the daughter of a dragon being discovered, even as she makes a name for herself as a talented musician and close confidant of the Princess Glisselda and her cousin/fiancee, Prince Lucian Kiggs. When a member of the royal family is killed in decidedly draconian fashion, Seraphina finds herself mixed up in the investigation, which leads her deeper into the realm of human-dragon politics, uneasy peace, and a fell plot to derail the treaty between the human and dragon worlds. While she struggles to puzzle out the meaning of the Crown Prince’s death, Seraphina also grapples with her inner-demons – a “mind-garden” of grotesques that, if not tended through meditation, will cause her to suffer fits, visions, and fainting spells.

This duology is a beautifully written, fully-fleshed, and engaging high fantasy that any LotR, HP, or Eragon fan would love. While magic is clearly present, issues of faith versus reason, love and loyalty, and self-acceptance take center stage in this series. Hartman’s characters are all three-dimensional, complicated, and entirely believable (in a fantasy, no less!). Though the first book is over 400 pages long, the plot never drags. Hartman’s story-telling is well-executed and her prose is beautiful and sophisticated.

If you are looking for a fantasy series that will challenge your beliefs, raise philosophical questions, make you feel smarter, AND entertain you in the best way, check out Seraphina and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman today!