Thanks to Random House for including us on the Shadow Scale blog tour! Read on for my review of the second Seraphina book by Rachel Hartman, and a giveaway*. Please note there may be spoilers for Seraphina that I cannot avoid mentioning.
* Just added 4/14/2015: Alethea will also send the winner either SERAPHINA in paperback or audiobook OR another YA paperback/audiobook worth up to $10 (if the winner already has Seraphina).
Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Publication date: 10 March 2015 by Random House
Category: Young Adult Sci-Fi Fantasy
Keywords: Dragons, Conspiracy, War
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Source: ARC from publisher for review, audiobook purchased with credits from Audible.com
About the book:
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?
Rachel Hartman returns with even more beautiful prose in Shadow Scale, detailing Seraphina's travels to find and unite the ityasaari, formerly only known to her as the grotesques in her mind's garden. Together with her fellow half-dragon/half-human friend, the acrobatic Abdo, she sets off with a mission that soon goes awry. Jannoula, the ityasaari she had locked out of her thoughts, seems to be one step ahead of her all the way, and while she professes to want what Seraphina does--the reunion and acceptance of the ityasaari as a family of powerful beings--Seraphina cannot trust her. With her support system falling apart, either falling prey to Jannoula's machinations or, out of necessity, far away (Queen Glisselda and Prince Lucian Kiggs remaining in Goredd, Seraphina's dragon uncle Orma hiding in exile), Seraphina's wits and will are stretched thin.
At every turn, new questions crop up: how will she find the ityasaari without being able to see their mind-fire, the magical aura that only trained Porphyrian priests can see? What makes them the way they are? And what will she do with them when she finds them?
Hartman's expert world-building unfurls into gorgeous, deep, and detailed life as Seraphina and Abdo travel from Goredd to Ninys, from there to mountainous Samsam, then exotic Porphyry. Expertly weaving in snippets of information about everything from the lives of the saints to the customs and linguistics of Porphyry (which we learn has 6 genders), the author creates an immersive and intriguing experience for the reader, peopled with a diverse cast.
Seraphina's cleverness and loyalty can only carry her so far. As she is exposed to new cultures, she learns to accept her limitations and gain insights into other people and ideas. Her visions may not hold a candle to the great powers displayed by other ityasaari, like Lars's technical genius, Dame Okra's powers of premonition, and Abdo's agility, but her tenacity and compassion make her more than worthy as a protagonist. The love between her and Kiggs is heart-breaking, both valiantly striving to do what's right, since Kiggs is engaged to his cousin, Queen Glisselda, whom both care for as dear friends. Meanwhile, there is much to fear: war rages in the Tanamoot, an enemy ascends as regent of Samsam (under dubious circumstances), and Jannoula dogs every step from within the minds of Seraphina's most trusted and loved friends.
Fantasy readers who love Kristin Cashore's captivating Graceling, Leigh Bardugo's epic Grisha Trilogy, and Robin LaFevers's sweeping His Fair Assassin series will devour Shadow Scale like a dragon would an auroch. With a tightly-woven plot, compelling characters, and an intricately embellished history, there's a lot to love, and almost nothing is forgettable. Here's hoping that the poetry, mystery, and depth of Seraphina's world is one we can return to again and again in future journeys and books.
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