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?
I have to start this review by admitting it was supposed to be posted a few days back, and due to some unforeseen family issues I got my dates muddled and missed it. I'd say missed it completely, but sadly my place saver, which was blank except to say Shadow Scale Review, went up regardless. Suffice it to say, it was not a stark commentary on my thoughts on the book, which I loved, but just more hopeless semi-organised disorganization from which I seem to constantly be tangled in lately. What can I say? Obviously I need an assistant, though I believe they are called nannies when you have small children. Possibly a life coach...it is a rather large mess.
I've been following Hartman's tweets about the writing of this sequel with a level of enthusiasm she probably would have found daunting if she'd known. Seraphina became one of my beloved favourites within the first couple of chapters and I've been incredibly excited to see where she was going to take the story next.
It was both an unexpected and expected twist that the bulk of the book would be a journey away from Goredd, the castle and most of the characters who had become beloved to me. However, I loved seeing the world Hartman has created fleshed out, and the way this expands the readers understanding about the issues between humans and dragons gives added weight to the war. But I would be lying if I didn't admit I was spellbound by the journey to find the other half dragons of Seraphina's garden more than anything else (I know, anything else?? You ask. And yes, even Kiggs, and of course, Orma). To finally meet these beings in the flesh, to learn about their lives and struggles, it was in and of itself an incredibly satisfying story.
Layered with politics, intrigue, a fascinating history and many levels of varying kinds of discrimination, Shadow Scale is not only a formidable sequel to Seraphina, it takes things one step further by dipping its toe into the waters of various sexual identities and alternate relationships. It's just a dip, but it was so neatly done, so without judgement or drama, it made it stand out to me as something somewhat extraordinary in the genre. Hardly surprising, as much of what Hartman has done with these two books has been extraordinary, but it makes me wonder why there can't be more of this in YA, or in Fantasy in general.
Just like Seraphina, Shadow Scale swept me away. Hartman managed to drag me out of my complex and distracting life, for minutes sometimes, and other times for hours. It was both a completely satisfying end to the story and a tease as to what might come next (Hartman told me at a luncheon that she's currently writing a new book about one of Seraphina's half siblings). She may never be a wildly prolific author, and there are many that complain about the lag between books, but I can tell you she makes every minute you waited well worth it. To me, her books will always be like little library gems, and honestly, if you got those all the time they would hardly be as exciting.
Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman
Published by Random House March 10th, 2015
My copy kindly provided by the publisher
My copy kindly provided by the publisher