I'll admit it: I was incredibly worried about this one. I'm always a bit wary when an author seems nice and friendly and everybody likes them on here. I know, that seems like a stupid thing to say, but it always sits in the back of my mind that ... maybe people are giving this book five stars because they like the author. Rest assured: THIS IS NOT THE CASE. I mean, sure, people who liked the book probably like Hartman too, but it's not the only reason. This book deserves its five stars; it deserves ALL the stars. This is definitely a meaty book. There is talk of philosophy, love, art, religion, the importance of music and dance, what it means to be human (and dragon,) as well as many other themes: especially acceptance (being accepted and accepting oneself.) I was excited to see such a smartly written book intended for young adults that wasn't dumbed-down in the least. Have your dictionary ready though (this is where a Kindle is helpful) because the vocabulary used within is not for the faint of heart. I'll admit that I was a bit annoyed that some things were never fully described (Seraphina's oud only gets a description near the end) and that all of these new words were thrown out at lightning speed, but, that's epic fantasy for you. You just have to go with it and rely on the story-telling to fill in the holes.I'm going to completely forgive the beginning; it was bumpy and disjointed and chock-full of short, declarative sentences. I don't care any more. I was nit-picking and high-lighting and tsk-ing and then ... something shifted. Hartman hit her stride and things just started to flow magically and nothing could stop me from enjoying the story. Oh, and the characters. I loved Seraphina from the start. I loved how cranky and emotional she could be, how loyal and headstrong and brave and foolhardy and loving and kind she was. She's a fantastic character and one I can't wait to read more about.And then there's Prince Lucian and Princess Glisselda. I want to separate the two of them and yet I can't bring myself to. These two were the best friends and confidants Seraphina could ask for. Glisselda was bright and sparkling but never annoying or ditsy. Lucian was witty and charming but never controlling or mean. Don't get me wrong, the whole book isn't super happy fun times for everyone, but the characters are incredibly multi-dimensional. They laugh, they cry, they throw temper tantrums, they question and judge, and it's all wholeheartedly believable.The side characters and villains are equally as fantastic as their main counterpart. Fruit Bat, Imlann, Orma, The Earl of Apsig, even Basind: they all carried their own weight and breathed life into the story. It's been a long time since I've read a tale with such a fleshed-out cast.I could easily go on and on here, but I think you can find what you're looking for in other reviews if you haven't already figured out that I loved this book. It's an excellent entry into the epic fantasy genre, and the young adult category should feel gracious that Seraphina appears upon its shelves, and if you're a fan of either you owe it to yourself to check this book out.An ARC was provided by NetGalley - thank you.