–Seraphina, our narrator, is awesome, without having to be physically kick-butt. While she sort of has a super power, it’s one that causes her quite a bit of trouble. In sort, she’s flawed, human, and vulnerable, all without being anything but compelling and sympathetic.
–The romance is both swoon-worthy and understated. They don’t always fully trust each other and it’s not the first thing they think about, what with all the upheaval going on
–which brings me to…political drama! Which I love in fantasy worlds and the UK. There’s plenty here, with the added wrinkle of dragon-human interactions. Dragons are not supposed to feel emotions, and they genuinely don’t understand why humans do the things they do. Humans think dragons should manage to figure these things out. The whole thing reads as having real-world resonance, but it’s never reduced to the level of simple allegory.
–also, it has the feel of historical fantasy, without being clearly based on any one place (the era reads as pretty firmly medieval, especially with the mention of houpelandes, which made my costume history geekiness happy).
–also, also, I utterly bought the world, from the streets to the clothing to the food and the music. Even the bits that weren’t fleshed out didn’t need to be, because I trusted that Hartman knew what was going on, even if I didn’t.
So yes! A highly enjoyable read, that I would recommend to anyone who’s a fan of old school McKinley, or Megan Whalen Turner, or any smart & satisfying fantasy.