Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

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?

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

The first book in this duet, Seraphina, holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first ARCs I was ever approved for through NetGalley.  It felt like a big accomplishment and I felt even better about the whole thing when I absolutely fell in love with Rachel Hartman’s world and the story of Seraphina, a half-dragon stuck between two worlds.  To say that I was eagerly awaiting Shadow Scale would be an understatement but at the same time I did try to keep my expectations in check so I could give a decent review.

Sequels should improve upon the first book and in my mind, Rachel Hartman surpassed herself in world-building in her second book.  Not only do we get to see a little more of Goredd and its culture we get to see the rest of her world as Seraphina travels throughout it looking for her fellow half-dragons.  Hartman really does an amazing job of making each culture and country distinct, even down to its language.  She relies heavily on historical influences like ancient Greece and medieval France but it’s not so obvious that it seems like she’s beating you over the head with a stick about it.  No, she takes these influences and historical precedents and twists them to suit the world she has imagined.  It’s done beautifully and seamlessly and her writing style is so beautiful that you’ll feel these different cultures come alive.

As with her first book, Rachel Hartman’s writing style is beautiful.  Her descriptions whether long or short are poetic, with flowing language that doesn’t necessarily slow down the plot or the pacing in general.  Shadow Scale is not the fastest paced book in the world by any stretch of the imagination but it really is the writing that makes you keep reading in addition to the fact the characters are very three dimensional.  The writing is just fabulous and as I said in the last paragraph, it’s what really makes her world come alive.  She could have had the best world-building ever but without her pure writing talent Shadow Scale would have been an awfully boring book.

The characters themselves were also very satisfying in this final book.  Seraphina herself has grown so much and is finally starting to realize that no matter how much you may disagree with a person’s choices, it doesn’t give you the right to demand they change to fit your worldview.  As she begins her search for the other half-dragons she realizes that not all of them are saintly, as in the case of Jannoula and that not all of them even want to come with her and see other half-dragons.  Each half-dragon lives under their own particular set of circumstances and Seraphina quickly learns that no matter how hard she tries, she really can’t convince everyone.  And once she learns this, she becomes so much stronger even if she makes numerous mistakes along the way.  She grows so much throughout the novel that you can’t help but love her even more than you did in the first book.

Unfortunately, for all of my praise I came off of reading Shadow Scale with a real ‘meh’ feeling.  Why?  Unfortunately, it’s because of the ending.  It seemed very rushed and very forced on Rachel Hartman’s part even though she had hinted at certain plot twists before.  Really, it felt like she just didn’t spend the same amount of attention to detail on the ending as she did the rest of the book.  It felt sloppily put together, forced and inconsistent with the personalities and feelings of the characters.  One plot twist in particular in regards to Queen Glisselda felt super forced.  I can’t go into much detail because I don’t want to give away spoilers but I just felt like both Kiggs and Seraphina completely sold themselves out at the end despite fighting for honesty and transparency throughout the novel.

So in the end, despite the fact that this book was awesome for about 90% of the time, I do have to say I was a little disappointed with it.  If you loved the first book and read this one maybe you’ll feel differently but I can’t change my perception of the ending.  It was just too important to do in a seemingly half-hearted manner.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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  1. patricksponaugle

    Hey! I’ve read Seraphina! My niece (who I used to tell stories to, endlessly) bought me Seraphina a few years ago. I enjoyed it (although I totally called which human was the evil dragon in disguise, super-early on.)

    I also appreciated the world building, with the dragons and the mathematical minds, the half-dragon hybrids and their connection, the quigs and their weird devices, the long standing treaty between humans and dragons. And all the musical culture and the religion of saints.

    Even though it left you cold, I might check it out, and see if my niece has it. If not, I’ll definitely get it for her.

    • Carrie Slager

      Yeah, I totally saw which one was spying on the court as well. 🙂 Other than that, it was excellent.

      It definitely wouldn’t hurt to check this one out. Everyone is completely different with books and my 3 star rating could very well be yours or your niece’s 5 star rating. I felt like Seraphina was selling out her soul in the end after her fight for transparency and honesty but you might see it completely differently.

      When you do check it out, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

  2. karaebenhack

    I COMPLETELY agree with your thoughts on the ending! I wish she would have just written an extra book in the series so it go a proper ending that didn’t feel so forced.

    • Carrie Slager

      Well, I wish she would have at least continued on with the ending she had. There’s not going to be another book about Seraphina specifically but if she wanted to end things properly she should have written another book and had the whole Kiggs-Seraphina-Glisselda kerfuffle as one of the plot points to be resolved. Saying Kiggs and Glisselda married and just leaving it at that, not really including Seraphina’s feelings and how the kingdom would deal with the total lack of heirs isn’t really the best way to end a story.

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