Author: Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina, #2
Released: March 10th 2015
Publisher: Random House
Length: 608 pages
Source: Publisher for review
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.