Book Review: ‘Shadow Scale’ by Rachel Hartman


So much of young adult fiction– the dystopian genre in particular– follows the same formula: the protagonist is “different” in some way, and this difference causes him or her to view the community and the society differently. What makes Seraphina and Shadow Scale stand out are the novels’ usages of that formula. Seraphina started out with this idea of “difference,” but the author took a different direction with the story, choosing to eschew much of the formula for deeper themes and better plots. Rachel Hartman continues her narration of the battle between humans and dragons in Shadow Scale.

Seraphina is part girl, part dragon, and entirely drawn into politics of the kingdom of Goredd. When a war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must find those who share the same “difference.” Together they will fight the dragons, yet the journey is far from the smooth path one makes it out to be. Seraphina is pursued by humans and by a half dragon who can control people’s minds. She has been playing it safe thus far, and therefore, avoiding half dragons like him. Yet, such caution hinders her own gift. Seraphina must decide if she wants to embrace her powerful–albeit terrifying–destiny.

Rachel Hartman is simply brilliant when it comes to writing. Her writing style is not only elegant and pristine but also subtly technical. Her calculated and complex plots piece together like a puzzle, like a well-played game of chess, all while capturing the reader’s interest. However, what garnered Hartman such acclaim in the book world is her gift with characters.

Characters make a novel. A plot, in its simplest form, is merely a medium through which a reader can meet the characters. Thus, without intriguing characters, there really is no reason for a plot or a book. Of course, Shadow Scale matches (and nearly surpasses) the character aspect of Seraphina. Rachel Hartman continues to create characters with distinct personalities, characters with depth. Yet this skill also proves to be a curse; the introduction of striking characters means Hartman focuses less on some of the main characters of Seraphina, namely Lucian. In other words, the romance could use some work.

However, the rest of the book doesn’t. And honestly, who needs romances when you have dragons and shadow scales? (If you want me to stop referencing the title, just read the book…)

Rating: 8 out of 10
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books (March 10th, 2015)
ISBN #: 9780375866579
Length: 608 pages (Hardcover)
Source: Netgalley


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