Shadow Scale is the sequel to Rachel Hartman’s debut novel, Seraphina. These books focus on the life of Seraphina Dombegh, a young lady that is a member of the royal court, a musician, and half-dragon. The setting is a secondary world, the kingdom of Goredd where humans and dragons live together in an uneasy truce and there is a lot of distrust between the two based on their long histories.
I’ll be honest and say I didn’t think much about Seraphina. It was an ok book in my opinion, and I liked it well enough, but I never fell in love with it the way so many others seemed to have done. For some reason the story fell flat for me and remains largely forgettable. But I’m on a mission to finish series this year so I decided to read the sequel.
Shadow Scale picks up with Seraphina being sent on a mission to tour around the kingdom. During this tour she is also searching for the other half-dragons, those that have been populating her mind-garden in the first book. But not all of the half-dragons are so keen to be part of her group and the war that has been on the brink is about to get a lot more real.
Many people seemed to have been disappointed with Shadow Scale but I actually liked this one better than its predecessor. Now, I’ve read the most common gripes others have had with it (her lack of action against Jannoula, not rescuing her friends when she had the means, her and the prince get all of the rewards and no consequences for essentially being bystanders) and I don’t disagree with them but most of that didn’t bother me all that much, personally and I’ll tell you why. The thing with Jannoula was difficult. Seraphina didn’t have the power to combat her mental abilities, and most of the other half-dragons didn’t either. The story was from her POV, but I feel like, in some ways, it wasn’t really her personal story the way that the first book was, but the story of Goredd and its people and its long and complicated history with dragons and humans. So she wasn’t so much of an protagonist as just the vehicle for the story.
Things I liked about this book:
- World-building – Learning more of the history of Goredd, especially all of the stuff with the religion
- Spending more time with interesting side characters – the other half-dragons that were her companions and some of her traveling entourage were fun to get to know
- I kind of loved Princess Glisselda in this, especially at the end – I kind of wish to see more of her
- A well developed antagonist – at times you feel a bit sorry for her, but then she does something horrendous and you remember why you’re supposed to dislike her
Things I didn’t like so much:
- The pace throughout most of it was just really slow and it took forever to get to the antagonist which kicks off the rest of the plot
- There was some ‘wait, you’re doing what’ at the end
- Also, deus ex machina at the end (which, ok, I actually kind of liked here but is also a pet peeve so it goes in the ‘con’ list)
- The romance felt very stilted and was resolved in an unsatisfying way
Anyway, I enjoyed Shadow Scale better than the first one, but I still only rated it 3.5 stars out of 5 because, like Seraphina, it’s just an ok story for me, but probably a little bit more memorable.