Saturday, June 6, 2015

Review: Shadow Scale

Shadow Scale (Seraphina, #2)Author: Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina, #2
Released: March 10th 2015
Publisher: Random House
Length: 608 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.
The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways. 
As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Shadow Scale is the long-awaited sequel to our beloved Seraphina, and it’s a worthy one. There’s no denying the value of Rachel Hartman’s prose, the vividness of her imagination, or the quality of her many characters. Shadow Scale may have been “a beast to write”, but the end result is a book the likes of which we rarely see.

That’s not to say that Shadow Scale is without its issues, but those only come to light when we isolate the book and judge it by much higher standards. When analyzed comparatively, side by side with others of its genre, it becomes abundantly clear that Shadow Scale is a superior work. The clarity of detail in Seraphina’s Goredd is marvelous, and the sheer amount of information offered is staggering.

Emotionally, though, Shadow Scale leaves something to be desired.

As much as I appreciate having a heroine that’s just as clueless and powerless in extraordinary circumstances as I myself would be, I expected more from Seraphina Dombeg. I can forgive much stumbling, but I find lack of thought interspersed with bouts of self-pitying truly exasperating and disappointing. In Shadow Scale, Seraphina seemed to just wander about aimlessly, suffering defeat after defeat and not doing much about it.

To be fair, Hartman gave her a formidable enemy. As another one of Seraphina’s kind, albeit far more powerful, Jannoula appeared to be everywhere at once. It needs to be said, however, that all-powerful enemies generally lack nuance, and the very fact that Jannoula arrived everywhere before Seraphina by anticipating her every move and being much more clever, while Seraphina kept losing precious time by focusing on all the wrong things, was nothing short of exasperating.

For most of this book, Seraphina’s situation seemed to be hopeless on all sides. Luckily, the ending gives us some closure, although it too is a bit too open for my taste. Clean cut endings aren’t always the best choice, but after six hundred pages of struggle, a more substantial epilogue would have been a nice reward.

There remains the fact that Hartmann writes YA fantasy of unparalleled quality and that her worldbuilding lends itself to a ten-book series, and not just a duology. My own emotionality aside, these books will likely become classics, and their status will be well-justified.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. I love that you say her work is unparalleled, really makes me want to read this and soon! Wonderful review Maja!

  2. I'll have to share this with my younger sister! It sounds right up her alley. :)

  3. This one bored me to death and therefore DNF

  4. Ooh I just bought the first book (and OMG it has this rainbow shine effect *drools*) and after seeing your high rating for this one makes me even more excited! So glad that this sequel was just as brilliant.

    Lovely review, Maja <33

  5. I have to agree that the world building was impressive and amazing and it was probably my favourite part of the book and also agree that having Seraphina being so clueless about things I had already figured out annoyed me a lot... I also gave it 4 stars because it tested my patience with how uneven the scales were, but I still loved it enough to warrant the 4 stars.

  6. Well, you know where I stand, my lovely :) Your review is better than mine, and I follow each of your points. I have become a desensitised reader, woe is me!!! But I loved the craft that went into this so much. The woman is a titan when it comes to world building!

  7. I've yet to read Seraphina yet. I'm sad to hear this one is so frustrating. Hopefully I can look past all that when I get to these books.

  8. My friend told me it was a bit under the first one but I'm glad you see you didn't have a problem.

  9. Exquisite review! I have yet to read this one, purely because I've forgotten so much from the first book that I think I need to reread that one first to truly appreciate Shadow Scale. The author's work is definitely of a higher quality than many of her contemporaries in the genre.

  10. Ooh, I still need to read the first book! Of course it's too bad to hear that this one didn't quite live up to the first, but overall it still sounds pretty excellent to me. It definitely sounds like the author is quite the talent!

  11. You definitely enjoyed this one much more than I did, Maja. The extremely slow pace along with the change in Seraphina's personality disappointed me greatly.


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