Rachel Hartman’s debut novel, Seraphina, is an amazing book. I loved everything about it. With her excellent world building, Hartman created this magical place with it’s own very complex lore. The dragons are fascinating, the humans are well fleshed out, and the story was riveting. You can find my whole review of Seraphina here.
Shadow Scale, the much anticipated sequel, blew Seraphina away. At almost 600 pages, this tome read quickly. I can not praise Hartman’s pacing enough. There were really thrilling scenes that had me turning pages like I was reading a flip book, but there were also really sweet scenes in between. Shadow Scale features travel heavily, but does not feel like an epic journey in the same way that Lord of the Rings does.
The world building in this novel was even better than in the first. As Seraphina journeys, readers get a firsthand look at the world around Goredd. It would make me so happy if Hartman wrote more novels in this world. I especially loved Abdo’s homeland Porphyry.
When I speculated as to what Shadow Scale would be about, I did not fully anticipate the novel I got. I knew Seraphina would go looking for other half dragons. I knew there would be some love triangle between Seraphina, Kiggs, and Glisselda. I knew there would be a war. I had no idea what the story would actually revolve around.
FROM HERE ON OUT, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS
When Janoula showed up, I believe I actually shouted. I don’t know why, but I did not see her being important in this book. I find that when my protagonist is stuck with no defenses and no allies, it makes me really frustrated. In that sense, I had a lot of anger reading this book. I just wanted everything to be okay for the characters I love.
Speaking of love, here’s the real reason I’m over the moon about Shadow Scale. This is a huge spoiler. As in “last two pages of the book” spoiler. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know.
The love triangle is resolved with polyamory. Generally with love triangles, the protagonist has to choose between two men and there is a clear right or wrong. About halfway through this book, I called my sister because I honestly thought the best way this romance could be solved was with Kiggs marrying Gliselda and having an understanding with Seraphina. My sister insisted that would never happen. I WAS RIGHT. That is the ending the book had. Hartman, however, took it one step further, in that apparently Gliselda is a lesbian and is in love with Seraphina as well.
I love this ending because rather than shake up generations of transition for love, these three characters, who are also the closest friends, are able to maintain consistency for the people they oversee. Polyamory, while not my choice lifestyle, works for those who are willing to work for it, and I think that for these characters, it works. It makes me unbelievably happy to have a polyamorous relationship spotlighted in what I anticipate will be a bestselling novel.
My only disappointment with the book, while I’m going about spoiling this book, was that I did find the overall resolution a bit deus ex machina. Aside from that, I was really pleased with it. At one point, I cancelled plans to continue reading this book.