Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

shadow-scale-hartmanShadow Scale (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman, published on March 10, 2015 by Random House Children’s Books.

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Source: publisher via Netgalley (thank you, Random House, for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!).

Genre: YA high fantasy.

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? (Goodreads)

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My rating: 4/5.

Warning: there are probably some inevitable spoilers here for Seraphina, so proceed with caution (but I strongly urge you to give this duology a try even if you don’t read my review!!).

Whew! So this was a long one. Apart from the fact that I’d forgotten half of what happened in Seraphina, this was my only problem with this novel. In its physical version, it clocks in at more than 600 pages – which isn’t really that much for fantasy, but it seemed a bit slow at times.

But other than that, I enjoyed Shadow Scale very much. There was an introduction of sorts (a summary of Seraphina, basically) at the beginning of my e-edition, which was great because the story starts off right where it stopped in part 1.

Seraphina is a half-dragon, which means she’s one of the very few individuals of mixed race in a society where humans and dragons (who have a humanoid form as well as their “true” form) were at war for a long time and where the fragile peace is now threatened by a faction of violent dragons. Seraphina finds out that bringing together all half-dragons would give them a fighting chance in the upcoming war, so she sets out on a journey to meet the characters she has only connected to through her mind-link-thingy. 

The journey is a wonderful study in culture – she passes through lands where half-dragons are hated, but eventually ends up in Porphyry, a city state (?) where even the language has several genders and each individual chooses how to gender him-or-her-or-whatever-self (sometimes they make a wrong choice at first and then correct it!) and the society is very… uhm, what’s the correct term? Inclusive? Non-discriminatory? Anyway, they’re great and Seraphina is slowly coming to terms with her heritage, which is a beautiful thing to watch.

I liked the fact that not all half-dragon characters were of the “misunderstood but inherently good” type. Of course, oppression and discrimination form (influence) the minds of the oppressed, but while some emerge stronger from such experience, others get twisted and dark. Hartman writes great good guys and even better villains.

I didn’t particularly care for prince Lucian, though, as much as I liked him in book one – here, he mostly wanted to be gallant and unsuccessfully tried to save Seraphina, who didn’t really need saving. Ohh, and I love what Hartman did with the love triangle that had the potential to mess up the story.

To sum this up: Shadow Scale is a great sequel (and final part!) of Seraphina’s story. I think it’s cool that Hartman didn’t feel the need to stretch this to a trilogy, which is what happens all too often in YA, to the detriment of the story. I love this series and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes interesting fantasy and dragons.

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Have you read Shadow Scale (or Seraphina)? What did you think?

What other stories with dragons should I add to my tbr? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts! :)

  • WHAT? How did I not realize that this series was a duology? For some reason I thought it would have at least three books. Not complaining though, since I love a good duology (and a 600 page book is kind of like two YA novels anyway…). Sadly I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet, but I loved Seraphina so I’ll make some time soon enough. I miss my boy Orma! Love that cantankerous old fart. ;)

    • Kaja

      Oh, Orma!! He’s great. Though he gets less page time here.
      Yes, this is the end of the story – but I read that there will be more stories set in Goredd, just probably not about Seraphina & crew? I don’t know.
      Another proof we have the same taste in YA fantasy ;)

  • So it’s only a duology eh? I was as surprised as Danya. Well, I suppose it’s nice when a series bucks the trend. I should get started on this one soon, I’m actually a little wary because I liked but didn’t love the first book. Seraphina as a character annoyed me, but I’m optimistic she’ll grow on me this time around.

    • Kaja

      I *think* it’s just these two. The ending feels very final :) I’ve read that other stories set in the same world are forthcoming, but I don’t know whether they’ll be about Seraphina. What bothered you about her? She’s not changed that much, only more aware of herself, I think.

  • First I want to say you make this book sound dead interesting I’m going to have to buy a copy soon, but I have so many books gathering both digital and real life dust that I feel a bit bad about buying anything else, combine in my mini reading slump this may have to wait. Also, I’m thrilled that it’s a duology, I’m getting trilogy and series fatigued I think.

    Second of all brace yourself I’m doing some major blog reading catching up so you may be spammed with my comments on posts, just to warn you :D

    • Kaja

      I love being spammed with comments!! :)
      I get what you’re saying about the series fatigue. Some books would just be so much better if they were standalones and more concise! This particular case isn’t one of those but the second book could have been a bit shorter.

  • Sara Letourneau

    Nice review! I just finished Shadow Scale last week and adored it. One of the few times I’ve enjoyed a sequel more than the first book. I also liked the twist that Hartman put on the love triangle. I didn’t it coming – and once it did, it completely made sense.

    • Thanks, Sara! :)
      I KNOW, that triangle was a thing of beauty. So many clues but I missed them completely. Who knew! :) And yes, it’s quite rare that a sequel holds more punch than a first book. I’m really, really glad that the story ended with this book – so often they drag it out unnecessarily.