Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
With its logic-driven shape-shifting dragons, arcane saint-filled religion, and music permeated, culturally rich, Medieval-like setting, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is easily of my favorite books of all time. I love its sequel, Shadow Scale, almost as much.
The world building continues to be among the most wonderful I’ve encountered. In Shadow Scale, Seraphina is on a quest to collect other half human/half dragons like herself, which takes her away from her homeland of Goredd and into the surrounding countryside. She travels around three human kingdoms, Ninys, Samsam and Porphyry, each with its own history, culture, landscapes, politics, traditions, and relationship with the dragons, and all so vividly imagined that I feel I’ve walked through those lands myself. Seraphina also spends time in Tanamoot, the mountainous home range of dragons, where the immense ash-scented reptiles soar through the skies and lumber on land in their natural forms.
A lot of things introduced in the first book are explained further in Shadow Scale. During her journey around the kingdoms Seraphina discovers more about the origin of the saint based religion that all the humans have some connection to, though it’s interpreted with interesting differences in the various lands she visits. She also learns more about the many forms and unique abilities of her fellow half dragons, and each of the curious beings in her mental garden plays some role in the story.
Shadow Scale opens with a Prelude you can skip if you’ve recently read Seraphina. It goes over information from the first book that readers might have forgotten, but because it’s written as if it’s by someone living far in the future, long after the events of both books, there were a few bits of implied information about how Shadow Scale ends that I would have prefered not to know, though they weren’t major spoilers.
My only complaint about Shadow Scale is I wish there was more. The resolution of the triangulated relationship between Glisselda, Kiggs, and Seraphina is bold but rushed over right at the end and not completely satisfying. I also felt that with a little more time some of the individual powers of half dragons could have been put to more use--I had hoped the soul or mind animated mechanicals shy Blanche surrounds herself with could have played more of a role in the plot. And at the end of the story I was left wanting to know more about what happens with the people and dragons back in Goredd after the resolution of the conflict, since we hadn’t spent much time there or with any of them.
Basically I love the series so much I greedily want another book. It seems almost wasteful to have imagined such a graphic dimensional world only to abandon it, but I believe the series is a duology that concludes with Shadow Scale. Perhaps Hartman wants to leave her readers with things to think about or envision for themselves, which isn’t a bad thing. Both Seraphina and Shadow Scale are so rich and immersive I know I’ll be re-reading them again and again.
Though I've already ordered my own hardback copy, I read an advanced review ebook copy of Shadow Scale from the publisher through NetGalley. Review opinions are mine.