Hardcover, 608 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Random House Children’s Books
Shadow Scale is a sequel to Seraphina and will most probably contain spoilers for the first book in this duology. So if you haven’t read the first one and plan to, you may not want to read this review.
Seraphina ended (there, a spoiler already) with Seraphina’s mixed heritage revealed to Kiggs, Glisselda and a lot of other people who were paying attention to what was happening. While Shadow Scale does carry on from where the narrative leaves off in the first novel, it is a very different book from Seraphina. Seraphina was contained within a sphere with Seraphina as the center and all the other characters orbiting around her. The worldbuilding, though excellent, was limited in scope because though other countries and people are mentioned in the first novel, readers are not able to get too much of a glimpse of their lives–not beyond a dialectical glimpse anyway.
Shadow Scale is to Seraphina what the cinema is to the silver screen. The scope widens dramatically and the stage becomes larger. In Shadow Scale Seraphina is still an important character but whether she is the most important is up for debate. The conflict, too, changes, though, in my opinion, perspective (wide versus narrow) remains an important theme throughout.
Shadow Scale is very much a hero’s journey as Seraphina travels the different countries on her side of the world on behalf of her queen. She is on a mission to gather all half-dragon/half-human beings like herself in order to create a defense against the dragons who are engaged in open warfare against Goredd, her country. However, that is not the only reason Seraphina is looking for the half-dragon beings; she is also looking for a place to belong, a place where she does not feel like an oddity, a freak.
The worldbuilding is fantastic in Shadow Scale. Different peoples, different cultures, and different landscapes are all given attention and detail. Some of the things I really enjoyed about the novel are:
- The Porphyrian language contains six genders some of which are emergent male/female, naive female/male.
- Abdo. He has an irrepressible energy that is fitting his character and young age. His optimism and good cheer often save the novel from being overly dramatic.
- The quigs are a fascinating bunch. Their childlike behaviour and mentality is at odds with the utter ruthlessness they exhibit when fighting. I especially appreciated that their less than aesthetically pleasing physical bodies and scents are acknowledged and then forgotten. Physicality has no direct correlation to morality.
- The novel is inclusive of all genders and sexualities with nary a remark or comment on them.
I wasn’t too much of a fan of the romance and Kiggs. The romance was a bit too mushy for my taste–and this is a matter of taste. I didn’t like the fact that Kiggs was engaged to another person throughout his entire relationship with Seraphina. Kiggs himself becomes a bit too bland of a character in Shadow Scale. I felt like I needed more from him as a character than I got. The pace too felt a bit slow at times and I got a bit frustrated at it and Seraphina for dragging things on for too long.
The “villain,” of the piece, if she can be called that is very interesting. It is difficult not to sympathize with Jannoula because the reader knows the atrocities she has suffered at the hands of the race she wants to eradicate but can we really condone someone who does the exact same things that were done to her? Then again, can we really blame her for learning what she was taught? Jannoula is a chilling reminder that even the most fascist regimes may have originated from good intentions.
The ending of the novel is unconventional which I loved. However, I do wish that the ending had been elaborated upon a lot more than it was. Because the ending is unconventional and presents something new and as yet unexplored in the genre, I would have loved to it (it’s difficult not to give things away here) unfold and with much more detail. I felt there could have a lot more time spent on this rather important piece of information, or twist if you’d rather, that is revealed at the end. But alas, it was not to be. (Though, considering the book is about 600 plus pages, I can understand why things were cut short but I wish they weren’t.)
All things said and done, I did really enjoy the novel. I’ve probably forgotten to talk about some of the things that I enjoyed but suffice it to say, I did feel that this novel was a satisfying conclusion to Seraphina’s story. I can’t wait to see what Rachel Hartman comes up with next.