Rummanah Aasi
I am not a fan of dragons, but Rachel Hartman's award winning debut novel Seraphina won me over with its brilliant writing and wonderful characters. When I heard there would be sequel, I was very excited but unfortunately the book did not meet my expectations. Many thanks to Random House and Netgalley for an advanced copy of the book.

Description: 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?


Review: World building is an important aspect of a book in which the book's setting is a place other than our real world. For a reader world building can grab your interest and make you invest your time in spending and exploring the author's world. It can also deeply hinder the reader's enjoyment if it is not too clear and detailed. Like too much of any good thing, world building can also be overwhelming and overshadow every aspect of the book, which happened in the case of Shadow Scale.
  For more than half of the book, Hartman spends her energy and focus on detailing kingdoms, their constitutes, and every aspect of their customs as Seraphina goes on a mission to find other half-human/half-dragon beings. With her loyal friend, Abdo, she searches the lands for the creatures she has only met in her mind garden. While I loved the intricate details that Hartman showcases, Seraphina's travels become repetitive and tedious. Though I understand that Serphina's mission is important in building the theme of family and community since our heroine has only lived in isolation because of her hybrid identity, I gave up on reading closely to this aspect of the story and skimmed quite a lot. The over abundance of world building is what hindered the book's pacing.  
  The plot of Shadow Scale picks up a little bit as we are introduced to the main villain and I would argue the star of the novel, Jannoula. Jannoula is a half-dragon whom Seraphina contacted telepathically in a time before she knew there were others like her, once usurped Seraphina's consciousness, and it was only by great effort and luck that Seraphina managed to fight her off. I really liked the complexity of Jannoula's character who does garner some of our sympathy as we learn how horribly she was treated and abused, but also admire and are terrified by her powers of manipulating her foe's strengths against them. She really reminded me of Queen Levana from the Lunar Chronicles. Jannoula is a worthy foe of Seraphina, but unfortunately it took Seraphina quite some time (i.e. hundreds of pages) to stop dawdling, gather her courage, and finally take some action.  I was disappointed that it took Seraphina a very long time to pull herself together along with a deux ex machina to come in the 11th hour of the civil war to defeat Jannoula. I was sad to see all the characteristics that made me love Seraphina in the first book disappear in this one.
  I was also disappointed in not actually seeing the civil war, which is what Shadow Scale was building up to and it felt very anti-climatic as it happened in what seems like less than a page. There were many new twists that seemed to be haphazardly thrown without any development or explanation in such as solving the love triangle between the Queen, Kiggs, and Seraphina, which made me scratch my head in confusion. I would have loved to see more romance between Kiggs and Seraphina. I would also have loved to see more of Orma who was hardly present in the book at all. 
 Overall Shadow Scale did not live up to my expectations and I was disappointed. What would have been a highlight in my reading for the month of April turned out to be a chore to read. Hartman is clearly a gifted writer, but she lost me early on in this lengthy book and could not win me back. I do, however, look forward to what she writes next. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some violence such as mental torture and a character getting stabbed, however, it is not graphically detailed. There is also minor language. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Eona by Alison Goodman, Seven Realm Kingdom series by Kristin Cashore
8 Responses
  1. Kindlemom Says:

    I have heard so many great things about the first book as well. I'm so bummed you didn't love this anywhere close to the first. Wonderful honest review!!


  2. Lauren D. Says:

    I totally understand what you mean, it does take Hartman forever to set things up, and I also felt that way about Seraphina. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this one more! I think I just got caught up in the writing and really loved it. Hopefully her next book will be more enjoyable. Lovely review!


  3. Anne Bennett Says:

    I think you may have just saved me many, many hours of reading (listening). I'm sad that the book isn't better. RATS!


  4. Candace Says:

    I haven't read this second one yet. I loved the first but it was heavily detailed so I can see how that could be overdone and just a bit too long. But we'll see, I'm sure I'll get to it one of these days.


  5. I'm disappointed that you weren't as much a fan of this one. I've heard good and bad things about it from others. I just got it off hold at the library, so I'm planning on reading it in the next few days but not as excited about it as I once was.


  6. I really thought there's no such thing as too much worldbuilding, but I defintiely see your point. This arrived just days ago (I had the arc, but it was a mess) and I was SO excited about it, but I'm also kind of scared to read it. The first book was spectacular and I don't want to end up disappointed.


  7. I actually enjoyed this one more than I did the first. But then, I was reading the second book as a "not-hyped book". :) I did so agree with you on Orma and the romance. Didn't care for it at all!


  8. "It took Seraphina quite some time (i.e. hundreds of pages) to stop dawdling, gather her courage, and finally take some action. I was disappointed that it took Seraphina a very long time to pull herself together along with a deux ex machina to come in the 11th hour of the civil war to defeat Jannoula. I was sad to see all the characteristics that made me love Seraphina in the first book disappear in this one." This (along with the fact that Kiggs and Orma were barely present) pretty much sums up my issues with Shadow Scale. I agree 100% with your thoughts, Rummanah!


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