Back in 2012 I had the pleasure of reading Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. It ended up being one of my favorite books that year and I waited and waited for the sequel to be released. It ended up being a three year wait after the release of the sequel got pushed back. In the world of YA publishing three years between books is a really long time. I was so happy when I finally got my hands on Shadow Scale. Unfortunately this ended up being one of my biggest reading disappointments ever. What exactly happened, well...I feel like the author lost direction and wasn't sure what she wanted to say in book two, and then ended up saying something completely different than what she was saying in book one. There were themes in book one that I simply adored and I felt like they were trampled on in book two. Were those themes accidental in book one? Did I read too much into them? I don't know. Here are my reviews for one of the best YA fantasy books I've read, and it's sequel, one of the worst...
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Category: Young Adult
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides.
When I first started reading Seraphina I thought it would probably be a 3 star book. It was pretty slow moving, but still interesting. As I progressed through it and got through the middle portion of the story, I just knew it would be a 4 star book. Then as I neared the end and it was so beautiful, I had to give it 5. I also love a good dragon book. This one in particular included the type of dragons that change into human form.
One thing I thought was interesting about the dragons in this world is that they do not understand the human emotions they experience when they are in human form. As dragons they suppress emotions. This reminded me a lot of the Vulcans in Star Trek. I thought it was a pretty cool idea.
The main character, Seraphina is a half dragon/ half human girl who has to hide this fact because of people's attitudes and fear of dragons in general. I thought Seraphina was a very well done character who was intelligent and brave. I also loved that she was a musician. Her relationship with her Uncle Orma, her friendship with Princess Glisselda, and her budding and forbidden relationship with Prince Kiggs were all aspects of the story that made it such an enjoyable read. I just loved the messages about love, truth, and courage that seemed to be prevalent in this book. There were moral dilemmas that I thought were dealt with really well. There were also messages about self-loathing and self-harm that I think many teens deal with and I liked the way that was handled in the book as well.
I thought the world building was excellent and even though this is a very slow moving story, it was still so very good because the characters were so very interesting to read about. Overall this is a beautifully written story. It appears to be the first in a series and I can't wait to read the next book. I've added this one to my list of favorites.
Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Category: Young Adult
Content: Clean, but there are some things that are possibly implied that I was not comfortable with. See Spoiler if you don't mind reading spoilers.
What happened? I loved Seraphina. I gave it 5 stars. But Shadow Scale has left me so bitterly disappointed I could cry. All the things I loved about the first book were gone in this one.
This book was so slow, and so long and just dull. It was hard to get through, and it took me forever to read it. Seraphina was slow paced as well, but it wasn't dull.
In this book Seraphina spends the whole book blaming herself for things that aren't her fault and not doing what needs to be done. She was very much a pacifist because she was so guilt ridden over her treatment of someone who was just plain bad. What Seraphina did to Janoula had to be done because of Janoula's behavior. There was nothing wrong with what Seraphina did, she had to protect herself and she should have protected everyone else as well, so I don't get the guilt over it. She just wasn't the Seraphina from the first book at all.
I thought Janoula was very villainous and well done. I truly hated her, which is what all good villains cause me to do. I just wish the heroine would have been her match. She just really wasn't.
There was a lot of world building in this book done mostly through Seraphina traveling. The traveling got old after a while. We get to meet all of the characters that are in her mental garden and I enjoyed meeting most of them, however the character development was not there. This was partly because of Janoula invading their minds and taking over, but not entirely. There was one character that was thrown from his horse and terribly injured and Seraphina was upset about it, but I wasn't because he wasn't developed enough as a character for me to care.
The ending makes me kind of angry. After reading all those pages there couldn't have been a resolution to the whole thing with Orma? And the romance was just a huge disappointment the way it ends up.
**This next paragraph is a spoiler so if you don't want to read it skip it and go down to the next paragraph. I debated whether of not to include this spoiler here, but I really want to talk about why the romance bothered me so much. Kiggs and Glisselda who really have a brother-sister type relationship, marry near
the end of the book for the good of the kingdom, and because they promised the Queen they would before she died. And it seems as though Kiggs and Seraphina are to
become lovers. Glisselda has revealed that she is also in love with
Seraphina. She revealed this after she finds out that Kiggs and
Seraphina are in love with each other. This seemed to come out of
nowhere. There were no hints to it at all, ever that Glisselda had those sorts of feelings for Seraphina. It felt forced into the
story. She kisses Seraphina at this point and tells her she and Kiggs
have her blessing. Seraphina then realizes something about herself, but
we are not told what that is. In the end it is stated that they are all
fine with the arrangement they have made and the way they feel about
each other is between them. It made me wonder if they weren't going to
have some weird sort of threesome. I seriously don't want to have
thoughts of threesomes in my head while reading a YA book. Hopefully I
was reading too much into it. Regardless, I don't like the idea of
Seraphina being Kiggs's mistress and not his wife and her possibly having that sort of relationship with Glisselda too. [ Kiggs and Glisselda marry near the end of the book and it seems as though Kiggs and Seraphina are to become lovers. Glisselda has revealed that she is also in love with Seraphina. She revealed this after she finds out that Kiggs and Seraphina are in love with each other. This seemed to come out of nowhere. There were no hints to it at all, ever. It felt forced into the story. She kisses Seraphina at this point and tells her she and Kiggs have her blessing. Seraphina then realizes something about herself, but we are not told what that is. In the end it is stated that they are all fine with the arrangement they have made and the way they feel about each other is between them. It made me wonder if they weren't going to have some weird sort of threesome. I seriously don't want to have thoughts of threesomes in my head while reading a YA book. Hopefully I was reading too much into it. Regardless, I don't like the idea of Seraphina being Kiggs's mistress and not his wife. (hide spoiler)]
On top of the way the romance ends up, the resolution to their problems is a huge deus ex machina. How disappointing! I looked forward to reading this for three years and now I wish I had not read it. It pretty much ruined all the good things about Seraphina.
Oh and one more thing, I have no idea why this book is called Shadow Scale. I found nothing that eluded to the title in the book, but maybe I just missed it.
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