Shadow Scale: A Disappointing Sequel

Shadow Scale is written by Rachel Hartman. It was published in 2015 by Random House. It is the sequel to Seraphina.

Spoilers for Seraphina and some spoilers for the ending of Shadow Scale.

Seraphina is tangled amid the grapple for power between the dragon rebels and the human court. The dark secret of her true identity—half-dragon, half-human—has now become her advantage. Only she has the power to unite the kingdom of Goredd, and she intends to use it. She scours the land for the rest of her half-dragon brethren, whose unique gifts may make the difference in the struggle. But gathering her people is no straightforward task, and the more Seraphina learns, uncovering hidden histories and outright lies, the more she comes to realize that someone is working against her. What hope is there for brokering peace between dragons and humans when one of her own is determined to see both worlds go up in flames?

Shadow Scale continues the fabulously unique world of Seraphina and extends it even further, introducing new cultures and new aspects of the world and its magic. Hartman’s books are truly some of the most innovative and fresh Y.A. books I’ve read in years. Hartman’s writing is also superb, with just the right blend of beauty and technicality.

Unfortunately, Shadow Scale is also incredibly disappointing on several fronts. The first is the Lucian/Seraphina front. I was pleased with their relationship in Seraphina, but the conclusion of it here was extremely unfulfilling. We didn’t get any development in terms of either Lucian’s character or with his relationship with Seraphina, and then at the end, Hartman just casually states that what happens between them is nobody’s business, even though Lucian is now married to Glisselda. I can’t be satisfied with Seraphina/Lucian anymore, because in order to have that relationship, Lucian would have to commit adultery. Throwing out an “it’s nobody’s business” and making it clear that Lucian and Glisselda don’t love each other and that the marriage is purely political doesn’t change that fact.

Second, the ending just seems incomplete. I’m not sure if it was just my lingering anger over the resolution of Seraphina/Lucian or not, but the ending seemed odd and unfinished to me. I was not satisfied with how it ended, that’s for sure. Also, the end gets really mystical and New-Age-y, which I’m not usually a fan of, which might account for some of that.

Third, Hartman also does a number of things with her characters in terms of relationships and backstories that aren’t always successful. Glisselda’s little reveal at the end, in particular, felt tacked-on as a convenient excuse to keep the Lucian/Seraphina train going. I was also thoroughly displeased with Orma’s resolution, although I suppose it was technically successful if Hartman was trying to say that not everything comes up roses after war is over.

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Very progressive fantasy.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

“Finch is here in Segosh. We’ll look for him tomorrow.”

Dame Okra peered up at me over her spectacles; her eyes were wide-set and watery like a spaniel’s. “Finch? Is that what you call him in your head? I shudder to imagine what you once called me.”

It was clearly an invitation to tell her, but I pretended not to understand. I foresaw only two ways she might react to the name Miss Fusspots: amusement or incandescent anger. I was not so sure of the former that I cared to risk the latter.

Overall Review:

Shadow Scale has excellent worldbuilding and is an incredibly unique and fresh take on fantasy along with Seraphina. However, I found it to be mostly unsatisfying, especially the ending. The decisions Hartman made for some of the characters’ endings were aggravating and at some points didn’t even mesh well. I was so entranced by Seraphina, but Shadow Scale was a very disappointing sequel.

You can buy this here: Shadow Scale

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