Book Review: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

I stumbled across Seraphina by Rachel Hartman while perusing YA reviews on Goodreads, and I am ever so glad that I did. It has fantastic, detailed world building, a smart, capable heroine, and a love story that doesn’t feel recycled and cliche. It ends with the perfect balance of closure while still leaving the door open for a continuation of the story. A few years have passed and Rachel Hartman has gifted us with Shadow Scale, book two of Seraphina’s story!

For the most part Shadow Scale delivers on the promise of its predecessor. We get to see the world Hartman created in Seraphina on a larger scale as Seraphina travels outside of her homeland to find her fellow half dragons. Each of the places she visits has its own language, culture, and customs. This novel also delves deeper into the mythology surrounding half dragons. There is a good balance of detail in order to build a complex world, without drifting into info dumping. Seraphina herself is still strong and witty, and though she makes quite a few mistakes on her journey she remains likeable. The villain in this story is pretty terrifying. I cannot say much more without giving too much away, but it definitely has you on the edge of your seat near the climax.

One of my favorite parts of this novel, as well as Seraphina, is the way it deals with the romance. It isn’t insta-love, it takes awhile for the relationship to form and it is based on mutual admiration and respect. Seraphina also doesn’t give up on her family or goals to be with this love interest. Most importantly the “rival” isn’t depicted as a villain, in fact she is an admirable, likeable character. The ultimate resolution of this love story is unique, unexpected, and refreshing. In a genre where many of the love stories can feel unimaginative and trite, Shadow Scale offers something different, and it works.

I also have to note that the romance is not even the most powerful relationship in this novel. It is the relationship between Seraphina and her Uncle Orma which stays with the reader long after the book closes. Their relationship is written with such detail and love, and this novel shows the reader another, unexpected side of Orma.

The only complaint I have is that parts of the story felt rushed. Specifically the journey near the beginning of the novel and the final showdown near the end. This may just be that I wanted more time in this world and with these characters. However, the book is fairly long as it is and if more time was spent with these moments perhaps it would have felt overlong, but I wouldn’t have complained.

Overall, Shadow Scale was a fun, sweet read and a good followup to Seraphina. If you loved Seraphina, you’ll enjoy reading the conclusion of her journey.

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