I stayed up far too late last night reading Seraphina, then woke up at 8 AM on a Saturday (so not my usual thing!) to finish it off. I read about this book on some fantasy blog (IO9 maybe?) It sounded interesting, and I liked the cover, so I added it to my list.
I've been trying to expand my reading this year, so I've been reading two genres that have always given my difficulty - fantasy and YA. Seraphina is both, and it's one of my favorite books of the year.
So many fantasy authors fill the first half of their books with infodumps. Hartman manages to avoid this problem. Her world is fully realized from the beginning, and the required information never comes at the expense of believability. Her world feels real.
I haven't read many books about dragons, so I can't compare it, but the dragons in Seraphina were fascinating to me. They can take the form of humans, but they disdain their emotions (not that Dragons don't have any, but they are strictly suppressed.) This sounded sketchy to me, but it absolutely works. The dragons were some of my favorite characters.
Seraphina herself is an excellent character. She's smart and independent. She's an excellent musician (and let me say, as a professional musician I didn't find that any of the musical descriptions in the book rang false... and that's saying something in a novel where the main character plays an Oud.) She grows and changes over the course of the book.
There is a love story, but it's not your typical YA tale, and it's not the focus of the book. In fact, I wouldn't say that this was YA fiction at all. Yes, the main character is a teenager, but outside of that fact it reads like any other fantasy series. Highly recommended!