(Random House, 2012)
Format: audio download via library (narrated by Mandy Williams)
From Goodreads: "Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors....
An unusually gifted musician, [Seraphina] joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, 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 [a secret] so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life."
So - a YA fantasy world where queens and dragons parlay when necessary but prejudices against the "worms" run strong in the populace. A talented girl whose father has tried to keep her in the shadows all her life. A dragon tutor with secrets of his own. A cute - but betrothed - roguish prince. Anti-dragon hate groups, a beheaded royal, mysteriously denounced saints, and a dream world whose denizens pop up disconcertingly in real time. It's all a complex stew of elements that blend into an exotic, flavorful whole that's hard to resist. Hartman writes affectingly of the ways in which Seraphina is torn between so many different, equally vital paths in life, putting her at the center of a tangled maze so that any misstep will affect not only her, but the course of her entire nation. I thought her pacing was a little off at times, but the world is great and I really want to find out what happens next.
Williams is a new-to-me narrator. I wasn't really taken with her tone, though it very much matches the lilting soprano Hartman describes. She does a fine job with emotional resonance and read the novel as if she was as caught up in the narrative as her listener, which is my most listened-for criteria for liking an audiobook. And she really gets Seraphina's understated wryness, which was great.