Wednesday, March 18, 2015

ARC Review: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

*** This is a sequel and the review may contain spoilers for book one. If you have not read Seraphina proceed with caution. ***

Title: Shadow Scale
Series: Seraphina #2
Author: Rachel Hartman
Published: March 10, 2015 by Random House
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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?

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher (thank you Random House) in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I really enjoyed Seraphina and when and the world of dragons that Rachel Hartman created so I was excited for the next installment in the series. And while Shadow Scale is quite different from Seraphina I enjoyed it just as much. It further explores the world and takes us for a much more action-packed ride.

One of the things I liked most about Seraphina was the world that was created. It's so obviously Medieval-inspired, combining elements of the history, religion, and society with thrilling elements of fantasy. Being the second book in the series Shadow Scale does what sequels always do and takes us through the larger world. So in Seraphina we stayed in Goredd but in Shadow Scale we got to travel to many of the other lands in this world. And because of this aspect of the book it didn't read as much like historical fiction. This one felt much more like a traditional epic fantasy. You guys know I don't like travel monologues, and despite the fact that it did feel like it went on for a little longer than I would have liked, here it kind of worked. The world was bigger and the stakes were higher. It was really interesting to see each place and experience their unique culture, particularly how they interacted and viewed dragons. I enjoyed the further exploration into the world of this series.

And we can't talk about this world without talking about the fantastical element of it, dragons. We also got to learn so much more about them in Shadow Scale. One of the places we get to explore is the dragon homeland, which was so cool to see. We also get to learn more about some dragon technology, science, and medicine. The cold logic of the dragons is of course a huge part of their characters and we really get to see that here. But the real exploration in this book is about the half-dragons, or ityassari, like Seraphina. We get to meet the rest of the ityassari in Seraphina's garden and they are all so unique and interesting. Each of them have their own story and powers.

All the humans, dragons, and ityassari we meet however meant that there was a truly gigantic cast of characters in this book. The characters were not my favorite part of Seraphina, many of them did not make a very good impression and so it was hard to connect with them. The sheer amount of characters made that even more difficult in Shadow Scale. However, some old characters like Kiggs, Glasselda, and Abdo who I liked in the first book grew on me even more and I ended up really rooting for them and in turn Seraphina. But there were just too many characters here and it was difficult to keep them all straight. The one newish character who I did really enjoy however was the antagonist. I don't really want to tell you about them because that would ruin things, but I will say, if you thought the dragon Imlann was bad, you have no idea. This antagonist is truly diabolical and the interactions between them and Seraphina was fantastic!

I've already eluded to it with mentions in the world and with the antagonist but I truly enjoyed the plot of this book. It was much more thrilling than Seraphina, which was more of a mystery/procedural. The general plot of Shadow Scale is more of an epic fantasy kind of plot. The way Seraphina left off, war is on the horizon. Seraphina is tasked with finding a weapon or rather tactic to fight the dragons that only she can acquire, hence the search through the countryside. Shadow Scale didn't quite have the same emotional depth and exploration of race relationships as the first book but it did have the same kind of plotting where little things end up becoming a big deal as the book develops. And with Shadow Scale, those little things were moments from both books. Moments that couldn't possibly be connected but were. Throughout most of the book I would have said that there was a real disconnect between the two storylines but they ended up coming full circle in the end. And boy what an exciting ending that was. Shadow Scale was incredibly action-packed and despite the fact that it was quite long, it was never dull.

On the whole Shadow Scale was an action-packed sequel to a serious full of mystery and an intriguing fantasy world. I really enjoyed being taken for a ride (on a dragon?) and while the ending was satisfying I kind of hope there is more. I would be sad to see this series go.

I give Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman 8.5 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. I would definitely recommend this one more to fans of traditional fantasy. The high-stakes action and exploration of the larger world made it feel less like Historical Fiction. SO if you like Seraphina even a little then pick up this next installment and be ready to be taken on a thrilling adventure. It may be a bit of an investment at over 600 pages but it's worth it.

Have you read Shadow Scale? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I do so want to get to this one. I started reading Seraphina a while ago thinking I was going to get it read, so that I could get Shadow Scale read before it pubbed. I got so bogged down with the wordiness of Seraphina that I had to put it down to get other review books read. I absolutely love the story, but it is one of those books I not only have to be in the mood for, but also have to have big chunks of quiet, uninterupted reading for, and that certainly hasn't been my life in the last month. I guess it will have to wait until summer vacation. Thanks for the review, it lets me know I really want to get these books read. :)

    1. I hear ya, it is kind of wordy. I actually listened to the audiobook for Seraphina, which I really enjoyed. I think the lyrical quality of the story translated better to that format so if you are into audiobooks then I suggest checking it out.