Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman continues the amazing story of Seraphina, our strong but burdened heroine and manages to somehow surpass book one in world-building and character development; yes, it’s that awesome. There will be some decent-sized spoilers for book one below because they are just unavoidable in this series, so feel free to check out my review of Seraphina instead and be assured that all fantasy lovers MUST read this series! Shadow Scale is a pretty massive book, but I found myself adoring every single word and never wanting it to end (this is absolutely insane for me, I love finishing books, you have no idea!). Shadow Scale delves deep into issues of discrimination, religion, and acceptance of others and yourself. Seriously, don’t be intimidated by its size, Shadow Scale will fly by!
Note: I borrowed an advanced copy of Shadow Scale. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (Seraphina #2)
Published by Random House Children's on March 10th, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 480 pages
How I got my copy: Borrowed
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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?
- As with Seraphina, the writing of Shadow Scale is absolutely gorgeous. I no longer mind the publication date being pushed back if it means these precious words now exist. Every moment I found time to read was made brighter by Hartman’s writing.
- Seraphina might be one of my favorite main characters ever. There is a perfect amount of additional commentary from Seraphina in Shadow Scale. I found myself chuckling along with her when she told the reader some thought that she couldn’t share with others. The little asides just made me feel that much closer to her, to the point where I started questioning my sanity a bit because I felt like we were really close friends >.>.
- The pacing of Shadow Scale is seriously impressive. I have no desire to ever write a fictional story myself, but I’ve read enough now that I can tell when pacing is good and when it clearly isn’t a priority. Events in Shadow Scale was so wonderfully timed that the moment I found myself starting to slightly lose interest with the current event, something would change and I was instantly pulled back in.
- The world of Shadow Scale is seriously epic. I think I’ll be using that word a lot in this review to be honest, but it is worth it ;-). I’m not one for actually referring to maps, so despite having them available, I’ll just continue on in a story without much sense of geography. Shadow Scale never made me need to check the map to figure out what was going on because each country and culture is so richly-detailed and unique that I’m wondering if Hartman has a portal in her closet; how else could she possibly contain this much awesomeness in one brain????
- One of my favorite things about Seraphina was the mind garden that she has to maintain. I was completely shocked when it was first brought up in book one and must admit the weirdness is probably part of what makes me love it so much ;-). Shadow Scale starts revealing more about Phina’s garden right from the beginning and it plays a big role in the plot to gather all the half-dragons together. I loved learned more about the real people behind her avatars and all the awesome plot twists involved :D.
- Shadow Scale has a very large cast of secondary characters since we meet a lot of the half-dragons along with a few others and I honestly loved them all. The message in Shadow Scale about the treatment of those who are other, whether because they have very obvious deformities from being half-dragon or because they don’t act how they are supposed to or are of the wrong race is deeply moving. Hartman doesn’t shy away from the very real consequences that arise for those who are differently-abled in her world and I applaud her for that.
- There are so many small details about the world dropped in during Seraphina’s narration of Shadow Scale and they all ended up weaving together beautifully. I love details like the differences between languages as Seraphina struggles to communicate to half-dragons in different countries and the different saints and cultural traditions. While you can make some guesses as to the real-world inspirations for these countries, I was impressed with how little Hartman relied on real-world cultures and instead added hundreds of little details to make her own world come to life.
- The ending is so epic! Right from the beginning we know that war is brewing and full-on dragon battles are becoming more and more common, but that ending just brought everything to a whole new level! I have no idea how Hartman is going to top it in book three, but I have faith, hehe.
- The romance is very subtle throughout Shadow Scale and was left open in a very intriguing way. And I shall say no more about it ;-).
- I had to save the best for last. I know that I’ve gushed about the world a lot already, but Porphyry is possibly my favorite fantasy country EVER. First off, half-dragons are treated very, very differently there, which was intriguing to see. Second, they’re language includes six gender pronouns and the way for you to figure out which you should use is to ask the person “How may I pronoun you?” which should definitely become a thing, just saying >.>.
- There is a glossary at the back of Shadow Scale (which I always forget to check for and so discover at the very end of the book), and you might need to use it if you’re feeling rusty. There are a lot of names of saints to keep straight after all.
- Phina, I love you much, but wow is she a bit cruel about how she discusses the avatars in her gardens, including calling them grotesques D:. For some reason this didn’t bother me much in book one because they weren’t real people, but as we start to find them and she continues to call them mentally by some rather cruel nicknames, I got a bit uncomfortable. She does fix this and even notes her own mistake at continuing to call them those names, but still….
Shadow Scale just makes this series even more of a must-read for all fantasy lovers. I don’t care if you don’t tend to like YA fantasy, read this series. Shadow Scale also apparently has never heard of second book syndrome because it knocks it out of the park. Be prepared to want to instantly start back at the beginning as soon as you finish Shadow Scale.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
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