Book Review: Shadow Scale By Rachel Hartman
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? (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
When I was a teen I remember reading The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley and loved it because it felt so novel and had a flawed, but strong female protagonist. I had very similar feelings as I read Seraphina. In both cases I was very anxious for the sequel and both times felt a little disappointed. It’s not that I didn’t like the second books in these series, because I did, nevertheless, they fell a bit flat.
Both McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown and Shadow Scale have a grand scale war with multiple factions. I felt like each factions’ purpose was ill defined and the final battle ended abruptly. It is almost like Hartman and McKinley wrote themselves into a tangle, and rather than working out through the mess, they had a quick solution to cut through the web.
In Shadow Scale all the different countries involved in the war (Goredd, Samsam, Ninys, and Porphyry) convoluted the main story line conflict which was between dragons, humans and the half-dragons. I was at a point that I didn’t really care about the politics any more. The sweeping stroke to stop and resolve the war was a saint, a larger than life saint. At that point it was as if all the other factions dissolved as well as their conflict.
Even with these problems I found that Hartman had thought out the direction she was heading. As Seraphina sought to discover each one of the avatars from her garden of grotesques, I was intrigued to see how the person would resemble the creature within her mind. I did not see some of the twists that Hartman included, and I love to see logical twists. I also liked learning of Seraphina’s relationship with the avatar, Jannoula. The writing had a very logical foundation.
There were a couple of odd things for a young adult novel. I thought it was a little weird that one of the countries chose their gender, rather than just identifying with their natural born gender. Perhaps Hartman wanted to have a bit of a political agenda. I’m not very fond of agenda’s in novels that I read for pleasure. I also thought that the feelings Queen Glissenda unexpectedly exhibits for Seraphina came out of nowhere. By the end Seraphina is left with no other option than to become the mistress of Lucian Kiggs, while he performs his duty for the kingdom by marrying the queen. These three seem to be at peace with their new dynamic, though it is unrealistic that it would provide a happy, fulfilling relationship for any of them. I was very disappointed that Seraphina was willing to live a lie when she had worked so hard to escape living the lie of her childhood. Seraphina was weakened as a strong female character by her acceptance of a relationship that would demean her. Seraphina remains the winner in this series!
For Shadow Scale, it drops in my personal ratings.
– the Mother
ps- My teen daughter didn’t read this one, possibly because she knew I didn’t love it.