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Christina Reads YA

"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis

Review: Shadow Scale - Rachel Hartman

Release Date: March 10th, 2015
Source: Netgalley
Published by: Random House

Shadow Scale - Rachel Hartman | Goodreads

Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.

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?

There's no doubt that Shadow Scale is one of the best books I've read this year. It has a depth that you can sense even at the surface; while reading, I consistently found myself smiling at Rachel Hartman's use of metaphors but even if you don't read with metaphors in mind, her use and development of symbols, her themes and characters and plot arcs - they're all so wonderfully worked into the story. Essentially I know that I'm in the hands of a master storyteller and I think that reading at a surface -- or deeper -- level highlights this fact.

While reading, I also found myself enamored of the discussion between logic and emotion -- relevant to how humans and dragons govern themselves. There have been many young adult books that to me, never seem to get farther than saying something akin to "emotion is important to acknoledge," and I never quite understand why emotion crops up so frequently in YA books as a theme/discussion topic. The intensity of youth? None (to me) have transcended such discussion except for Seraphina and Shadow Scale. I LOVE what Rachel Hartman has done here and quite honestly there are no other YA books out there like hers. I was trying to think of comparisons and I couldn't come up with many. If you liked the religious elements on the Grisha trilogy and wanted them to be more expanded upon; the character focus / hero's journey epic of Kristin Cashore's novels; the older fantasy writing styles akin to Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown but in a first person perspective you should try out Seraphina and Shadow Scale. If you are a fan of high fantasy you should DEFINITELY read these books.

The world-building is absolutely phenomenal. This book makes the duology much more epic. Seraphina gets to travel across all the countries in the wake of pending war and Rachel Hartman does an amazing job developing the various cultures and attitudes of each country. Characters from each country we understand better because we know more of the countries; and they clearly belong to their respective cultures. The races of dragons, humans, and half-dragons are just as well developed and the characters are lovable and easy to distinguish from one another. Such a larger character cast -- and yet Rachel Hartman makes it seem effortless! Seraphina's own character development was so well woven into the various plot arcs. This book, y'all...

That's not to say Shadow Scale didn't have its flaws. I put it down several times in the beginning because I didn't feel a sense of urgency or maybe connection; that came along with the plot twists. Seraphina's voice is very dry and sometimes distant, which makes it harder for me to connect even in this first person narrative, and yet aside from my moments of silliness, I think that I'm a lot like her -- which you would think would help connect me to the story, but I wonder if that contributed to my boredom at the beginning. I also misjudged the need to reread Seraphina before reading this book. I read the Recaptains recap and Shadow Scale starts with a recap of Seraphina, but I think that rereading would have definitely helped me connect to the story more.

Despite that paragraph, there's no doubt in my mind that Shadow Scale being a wonderfully written masterpiece. Highly recommended to any and all who are interested in Seraphina / high fantasy and/or loved Seraphina.