Thursday, March 12, 2015

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman: Review


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?


When Golden Abaster returns with judgement for you
And salvation in the form of flowers for the rest of us

After reading Seraphina, I have dreamed about reading its sequel all the time. Seraphina is a clever novel with defined and intricate relationships. Shadow Scale makes a good companion novel of the first book, in a way. The complexity of the novel stuns me.

The world-building in Seraphina comes into use in Shadow Scale. It's incredible. Rachel Hartman has proven herself in this book. She really knows how to plot and write. The customs and religions and people's beliefs are rich in Shadow Scale, infusing themselves into conflicts happened in the book. The plot in the book is neatly divided, with the first half about Seraphina searching for other half-dragons like her, and the second half about a conflict taken root since so long ago. Despite the seemingly clear-cut plot, they are still intertwined. It's easy to be thrust into this novel. 

To my surprise, there are a huge number of characters introduced in this novel, many of them mark a significance in Shadow Scale. As Seraphina travels in search for other half-dragons, those she encountered has made an influence in the second half of the book. It's hard to develop great relationships that leaves a mark on our hearts, when there are so many characters in the picture. And even harder to develop distinct characteristics and personalities for each of the newly-introduced characters. Rachel Hartman, however, exceeds my expectations and managed to do so. Once again, she has proven herself with eloquence just how good she is at writing. Jannoula is probably the greatest creation. She's a constant shadow throughout Seraphina's journey and is a great threat in the second half of the book. Both pitiable and dangerous, she makes an unusual villain. She's the perfect mix of fear and annoyance, with her (literally) mind-piercing games and strategy. There's no doubt that she's a bad guy with complexity. Rare, given that she appears only in Shadow Scale. I definitely have a love-hate feeling for her.

However, when a great number of new characters getting into the big picture, old relationships wane. This is a big disappointment for me. While Kiggs and Selda are still an important part of the picture, and the interactions between Seraphina and the two of them are still adorable and intelligent, they don't make as much of a significance as they did in the first book. I miss the longing and chemistry between the three of them. They are, after all, the characters that I have grown to love in the first place. They are one of the biggest reasons why I yearn for this book. While Shadow Scale exceeds all my wildest dreams and expectations, it just makes me sad that Kiggs and Selda don't get to have a fair share of interactions with Seraphina.

This is a duology ended in an interesting note, and I'm sure I will miss it. This series will always have a special place in my heart.

Rating: 8.5/10

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