I like fantasy, but I don’t tend to read dragon books. Probably for the same reason I don’t often read animal books. I guess I just prefer stories about people. That’s not to say that there aren’t some amazing anthropomorphic stories out there. I like Charlotte’s Web as much as the next person, but I did always want to know more about Fern. Anyway I digress. Books about Dragons. Well I usually recommend Patricia Wrede’s series, The Chronicles of the Enchanted Forest, but I’ll admit right now that I haven’t read it. And there there is another dragon series, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called; I just know where it is in our store. I also recommend that series a lot, but I haven’t read it either. So when Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina (Random House, $17.99) received a lot press over the summer and it became a contender for our store’s picks of the year, I was a bit reluctant (heh). Ahhhh! So Good! I was really impressed with the world that Hartman has created. Goredd is an alternative, fantasy medieval kingdom. It contains the castle, cathedral, market, and university that one would expect in a bustling medieval town. Religion is interwoven into the fabric of daily life, as you might expect in a medieval society. But the host of saints is indigenous to Goredd. Hartman has created an entirely new hagiographic network and I can’t wait to learn more about it (yes, there will be sequels, but I’m not sure how many). As for the dragons, she seems to have found the perfect balance. The dragons are distinct from humans, possessing strong analytical capabilities but minimal understanding of emotion and yet they can morph and blend in with humans, allowing them to function with ease in human society. Humans, however, cannot become dragons — at least not in the first book. Due to unresolved tension in Goredd, despite the long-standing peace-treaty, humans do not trust dragons and, therefore, dragons — other than some scholars who are exempt — must wear bells. This symbol recalls other identifying markers that cultural groups have been forced to don throughout history, like the yellow Stars of David and pink triangles of World War II. I suspect some sort of resistance to emerge as the story progresses. The plot is interesting, and Seraphina is an excellent character, who lives a closeted life and fears her own identity, but you can get information about that in reviews. It is Hartman’s fantasy world, very much in parallel with our own, that I found most compelling. So much so, that I might be persuaded to read some more dragon books in order to better understand the larger context of this particular genre and keep me occupied while I wait for the next installment.

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