Dragons have fascinated the human mind from time immemorial. There’s no denying that. Whether they are to be slayed or sought out to provide sage counsel or sought out for their hoards of gold, dragon’s and their stories are bound to capture the imagination.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is a slightly different dragon story. Seraphina the protagonist has a big secret, she is herself a half dragon but in human form and has scales on parts of her body. She thinks she is alone. On her world dragons and humans had battled for centuries but finally a peace was brokered and dragons who could take human form were allowed to enter human countries as such. The peace is tenuous at best because of people’s suspicion and the nature of dragons who are a bit Vulcan like in their lack of emotion and dependence on logic. They think in ‘higher’ maths! The dragons have moved away from their gold hordes and now instead horde knowledge and books. Some of them live in human cities but have to be monitored by other dragons to ensure they do not become too human like. The humans in turn think they are too dragon like, so are always wary of them.
Though most people want to get on with their lives and want peace, the malcontents on either side, as always, are looking for opportunities to use the suspicion and brew trouble. Seraphina finds herself caught in the midst of this with her unique viewpoint from both sides and seeks to find her own unique place in a world where she neither belongs nor can be accepted on either side.
In its own way this is a book for our times when we are constantly struggling with accepting the ‘other’ and identity is restricted by the familiar and by conditioning. Suspicion is rife and even small differences are used to fan resentment. Very few are willing to accept anything beyond their own comfort zone. Though Seraphina is a fantasy set in a different world, it could well stand as an allegory for race relations in this one. Ultimately the realisation has to come that there is good and bad, well intentioned and ill willed creatures on all sides. People will be people, no matter what form they come in.