WARNING SLIGHT SPOILERS AND LONG REVIEW!Seraphina, Oh what to say about Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.There's a lot to say and a lot I'm going to say. This is the kind of book that makes me want to rip my hair out of frustration because I know the author is smart, yet there are parts of this book that make me blink and think:That could not have happened? Or is she expecting me to believe this? As you can see my feelings are mixed on this debut by Mrs. Hartman. What I can say is that there are a lot of things she is doing right, and it makes me stand up and cheer for her. HOWEVERThere are some problems. Most people probably won't find them to be that bad, but in my mind they are detracting from my overall enjoyment of this book. In a lot of ways I'm stumped as to why these are issues in the first place. This is NOT to say it is a bad book because it's not. In a lot of ways it's an excellent book, in other ways it's a good book, but in some ways (and for me some of the more important reasons as to why this is not a four or five star read) a not so great read. Overall, it's a GOOD book. I'm just terrible sometimes since I can be picky, especially when it comes to fantasy. First off: what I did like!Rachel Hartman is doing a LOT OF THINGS RIGHT. She is, indeed she is. In some ways, other authors in the YA genre should follow her lead. In other ways, she is in her own category.World buildingShe's meticulous. She doesn't dump everything at you, and you find out about the world in a good amount of detail. Special attention has been given to the religion, music, culture of the different lands, as well as the philosophy of different thinkers in this world (some borrowing from modern theorists I think since I did catch a Hannah Arendt quote). Despite that, it's impressive in the YA fantasy genre. Not so much to the extent as other master storytellers in the fantasy genre, but enough to somewhat set itself apart. CharactersShe has concocted a vast array of interesting characters. The lead Seraphina is likeable, intelligent, well rounded, and interesting. (However, yes there's a however, I do have a miff with her that I'll discuss later). The love interest, which Seraphina does have is not given till later, but he's good. Not sappy, but reminds me a lot in the way of Brandon Sanderson's prince in the Mistborn Trilogy that Vin likes. At least with his thoughts on philosophy. PlottingWell executed with political intrigue, action, and getting to know the world Seraphina lives in. Sometimes it can drag a bit, but then it picks up again. DictionA writer who challenges her readers? Oh my, this in itself should give this book a five star rating, but alas I'll get to my reasons soon enough. There were words even I had to look up, and that's a rarity these days given the fact that I read a lot. So, well done Mrs. Hartman. I was giving up hope that YA writers would challenge their readers. DescriptionsAre well done, however I would have liked to see a map of the world Seraphina resides in. It would have been better in a sense knowing where people are going and coming from. That's it for what I liked, now to come to the parts that do bother me.Granted, these might be issues I'll only have--but I should just point them out.DragonsI like dragons, in fact I love them in fantasy literature and novels. They're awesome, cool, and intriguing creatures. Now, Mrs. Hartman's dragons when I first read can fold themselves into a human form I thought it was brilliant. Hear me: BRILLIANT! I thought that's so cool. However, the thought lingered...how can they? Biologically? With magic? Or...Or...not explaining it fully0__0That's kind of what happened to be honest. Not kind of: DID HAPPEN. This is the shocker for me. I thought this would have been one of the first things I would find out about how the dragons can fold themselves, I was dissapointed to know--in fact--the author glossed over this. This is my BIGGEST annoyance with this novel. Mrs. Hartman built a world that is interesting with culture, music, philosophy, and interesting characters. She's writing about dragons, and about them transforming into a human shape. She SHOULD be able to explain how that is possible in the world she created.At first, I thought it was biological. Then, Mrs. Hartman explains that dragons "didn't always have this human form"Q___QOkay, I'll buy that--if you show me an explanation that is. She never does. TrulyIf she does, I either missed it completely (doubtful) or she's going to explain in the eventual sequel (really? This book doesn't need a sequel. I rather it end where it ended--even if there are a few loose ends). Sure, she goes on to explain how they transform from human to dragon form (much later in the book) and her only comment on changing from dragon to human is "cooling down".I don't buy it. It's not a good enough reason for me as a reader.I am willing to suspend disbelief a lot of times, but this time I can't. You see here, I might be a traditionalist when it comes to certain fantasy creatures. For me, dragons are creatures of magic, mysticism, and legend. They are revered, intelligent, wild, and incredible creatures. The dragons Mrs. Hartman created do have a lot of these qualities, however the one I really wanted to see was where the magic comes in.There isn't any, at least when it comes to transformation. They can store memories, which I guess is cool--but we all store memories. They can pass them down, even when they are born. Of course they can fly and spit fire, but that's a given for dragons period. No questions asked. I read reviews about how she is turning dragons on their head. How they are are super interesting, but honestly I can't give her credit where it's due when she is lapsing on her creature development. This is a story about dragons, and if you tell us they can change their form--there better be a REALLY GOOD EXPLANATION as to how and why. Otherwise, you should have left it be a biological occurrence--and I would have been stoked if she left it at that. It would have been better in my opinion, and really turn the idea of a dragon on it's head. In a lot of ways I wish she did because her other explanations are very shallow and not well developed. It's a strange thing to say for her, since I know her story as a whole is very well developed. Why cop out? Leave it to the reader? There's not much to go off of since magic doesn't seem to exist in the world she created.[This is just me, but I think it's really shallow when writers don't include magic in a fantasy book in some shape or form. It's why I read fantasy in the first place, and since there doesn't seem to be magic when it concerns dragons that's an extra mark against this piece.]SeraphinaNow, I said I like her. I do, however there is a problem with this book that needs to be addressed. The ages of the characters are never truly laid out. We don't know how old someone is till maybe the last twenty pages of the book, 3/4ths way through, or even at all. Seraphina as the heroine in a YA book should be about sixteen (give or take). Now, there were times were it was hinted she was turning eleven? I must have been reading about someone else. Even the Princess Glisselda (who I do like very much) is just fifteen years old. Granted, the author is writing the novel in a world and time where the younger generation has to act more mature given that they probably won't live super long. That's fine, except when people make comments about fifteen being too young, even seventeen as well for ruling a kingdom. If Seraphina really is 11 years old as I think she might be--she WAY TOO MATURE for her age. Before people tackle me to the ground about saying something like this let me begin by saying this. I LOVE IT WHEN AUTHORS WRITE MATURE CHARACTERS. I DO. Then I should really love Seraphina, right? Why am I complaining?I'm complaining because even though I liked well developed mature characters, even the most mature have their moments of weakness. We all know people who act older than they really are, but have "that moment" where they act younger. My father does it, my sister, my friends, and I all do it at some point. If a character is super mature, they better have that moment (at least one) in the book. One author I found who is great at this is Sarah Dessen who does write mature characters, but they DO HAVE THAT MOMENT of weakness. It's great to see, and I was hoping to see that with Seraphina. I didn't.I guess this could be pinged as one of her "dragon qualities". Being super mature and all, yet she's still half human. Dragons are very intellectual and unfeeling, however Seraphina feels things however she too rational in my mind. The mistakes she makes are because she is helping out her country, never because she's selfish. We're all selfish now and again, so the fact that Seraphina never acted selfishly for moment in this novel bugs me. God knows it's annoying when characters act selfishly, but we hate it because we do it too at times. It's realistic, being too rational at times can cause a bit of disbelief. If she has feelings, she's going to have a moment where she'll want to think about herself before others. It's natural instinct too. If you call her wanting to work at the court selfish, then I guess you can. I don't however. Another thing that bothers me is how she can, as a half dragon, communicate with other half dragons out there. She can also have visions in her "mental garden" whereas other dragons can't. This might be considered magic, but doesn't make any sense in a world where it seems there really isn't any magic at all. The scales of the skin, sure that makes sense for a half dragon (or a tail), but getting supernatural powers when the dragons in this world don't really have supernatural powers (unless their transformation can be explained in greater detail) is a bit much to take. Even for a fantasy, someone can't have random powers. There needs to be a good reason for it.Clary's a shadowhunter because of her motherHarry Potter can do magic because of his parentsLuke can use the force because of his father...you get the idea and what I'm trying to say.Everyone one of these characters had supernatural talent in some shape or form and inherited from someone. It doesn't make sense how Seraphina and other hybrid human/dragons can get "special powers" without making much sense--especially since Mrs. Hartman never gives insight as to the dragons being creatures of magic. As I said I do like Seraphina, but given the fact if she's supposed to be eleven (is she or is she sixteen? I don't know the author kind of glosses over it except for one sentence)--the author needs to tone down the maturity level just a bit. After a time it feels unrealistic when in your head you're thinking these characters are in their young twenties, later teens and they're really only between the ages of 11-15 it's kind of hard to take. In fact, it's really hard to take--even if the world is set in an age where the younger have to be more prepared in life. It just annoying when you hear an eleven year old discussing philosophy, I get she's a prodigy but in music--not in other things. You have to be able to tone it down, otherwise it goes over the top.I think this can be accredited to two things--some of which I've seen before in YA. The first is I think sometimes older writers are out of touch with writing teenagers. As a young adult in my early twenties I still remember what it is like to be a teenager. To make foolhardy decisions, to be irrational for a moment, but I was also very mature when I was a teenager as well (at least I'm told by other people). Anyways, I think that sometimes when writers who are 10+ or more years older than me...I find that sometimes I think the kind of forget how to channel their "inner-young adult/teenager" into a piece of YA fiction. Where the characters are too rational given their current age (Kristin Cashore does this too the author of Graceling, however this book is much, much better IMO). This can be remedied if the writer is a parent of a teenager, or they do their homework and read about teenagers. Either by studying the current YA market, or by asking around. High school/middle school teachers or from one's own observance. Conclusion Even though it was really two reasons, they really dug deep into the entire novel. It's hard for me to write a review like this because the author is doing a lot of things right that do make me want to read more from her, however at times the way she glosses over important information tells me that the author doesn't think it's that important for me to know. I find that funny since it's her idea, and she should (or want) to let us into the world she created (including as to why her dragons have a human form). Who would I recommend this book for? Well, people who like dragons--but if you really like dragons you might have the same problem I had with this book. If you don't, you're a bit more flexible. I'm not that kind of reader. Also someone who wants a smart YA read, this does fit the bill because it's well plotted, good diction, and some great themes. Otherwise, well anyone who likes fantasy.