By Kate Hawthorne, Staff Writer
If you like the “Eragon” series by Christopher Paolini and “The Naming” by Alison Croggon, then you should read Rachel Hartman’s “Seraphina,” a young adult fantasy including magic, dragons – and autism.
Despite having made it onto the New York Times Best Seller list a few times, this book is not very well-known (which is truly a tragedy). For any fan of dragons, this is a must-read novel. However, Hartman also draws on the real world, specifically on the autism spectrum. One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the fact that the dragons have characteristics similar to those of humans who fall on the autism spectrum: they work logically and are extremely bright in whichever field they choose (which, in this book, is most frequently music), yet they struggle with understanding emotions. This has proven to be a very controversial topic among readers, some of whom view it as “an unflattering caricature” of those on the autism spectrum. Personally, I found this to be a wonderful way to include learning differences – a topic often left untouched – in fantasy literature. While the characteristics of the dragons cannot perfectly depict everyone’s experiences with autism, the autism spectrum is a wide one, encompassing diverse personalities and individuals.
In this novel, the protagonist, Seraphina, is a uniquely gifted musician who is drawn into the investigation of the murder of a member of the royal family of Goredd. The investigation shows the dangers that lie beneath the surface of the seeming peace between the humans and the dragons that hide in human form amongst them. Throughout the book, Seraphina must work hard to protect a secret that she keeps close to her chest while dealing with the strange visions that plague her sleep.