Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Shadow Scale by Rachel HartmanShadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina #2
Published by Random House BFYR on March 10, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 608
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars

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?

After years of waiting, Shadow Scale is finally here! I adored Seraphina when I read it back in 2012, so my expectations were high. Before going into Shadow Scale, I actually reread Seraphina, because my memory is not the most reliable, and I didn’t want anything to detract from my experience of the sequel. Because I did this, I can see just how much Shadow Scale improves on Seraphina in every aspect. Beautifully thought-out and written as Seraphina is, Shadow Scale takes everything to the next level.

One of the top things I love about this series, and there are many, is how unabashedly of-the-mind it is. The action scenes take place almost apologetically in the background. That might sound like a criticism, but I really don’t mean it that way at all. Shadow Scale isn’t about physical battles, even though it’s set in the midst of a war, but about the mental ones. Seraphina has to use her intelligence to take on others, but also herself. She’s a heroine who isn’t particularly gifted physically, though her scales can block weapons, and she has some potentially untapped half-dragon abilities.

gif dragon badassery got
There will not be much of this.

This comparison’s going to sound really odd, but Shadow Scale reminded me of Death Note. For those who are unfamiliar, Death Note is a manga (or an anime or a live action movie) that centers on the mental face off of two college age geniuses. Lots of people die in the series, but mostly they hardly matter. The series is all about the war of cleverness being waged, and the two know that whoever loses will die.  While the battle isn’t quite the same, Seraphina has to find a way to defeat Jannoula, who has great mental strength, with her own mind. This, friends, is a battle of wits, not of might.

Speaking of Jannoula, I love to hate her. So very much. Jannoula sort of came out of nowhere for me as a villain in the series, but I love that she became the enemy, rather than the rival dragons. I am all about powerful, manipulative lady villains, who have pasts and motivations. She manages to be thoroughly evil, but also a bit sympathetic, which is what makes a great villain. The fact that the drama isn’t physical and in your face might make the book slow for some, but I adore stories like this and I had no desire to read any other books once I got about fifty pages into Shadow Scale.

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I truly cannot get enough of how many powerful female characters there are in this fantasy world. Jannoula, obviously, is incredibly powerful mentally. Seraphina herself has a much less obvious power, but it is there. She’s also incredibly talented with her music, able to make people feel with her. In Shadow Scale, Glisselda has to rule, while her grandmother lies in a sick bed, and she really steps up. In Seraphina, Glisselda was smart, but she was very young and did not seem ready for that much responsibility. In Shadow Scale, she proves that she has what it takes, helped by the support of her friends. There are others too, like Eskar, of the dragons. There are strong women in each society.

gif most girls are idiots got
You’re in the wrong book, girl.

In Shadow Scale, Seraphina travels around the neighboring kingdoms looking for the other half-dragons. I was a bit worried about this, since it would take Seraphina away from Kiggs and everything that I knew. Actually, when she left, that’s when the book really took off for me. Hartman builds such disparate cultures, all with their own mores and social systems. Though these countries are closely tied together in certain ways, with a shared history, they differ so greatly in others; they all revere the same saints, but they take the teachings in very different ways, as is shown in the various reactions to half-dragons. The cultures are beautiful, and I’d dearly love another book set in Porphyry about an older Abdo. *coughs*

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The plot ran in really unexpected directions. I’m torn between thinking that it was somewhat anticlimactic and feeling that the unique way it wrapped up was perfection. Everything that happens very much fits within the kind of series that Seraphina is. It’s very much an atypical plot resolution, but I think it works for how everything else goes. It fits. That said, I do have some questions, like View Spoiler ». I also love that the series ended on Seraphina’s relationship with Orma, because, despite romance and friendships, Orma’s the most important in Seraphina’s life. Their relationship is so sweet and feelsy and gah. It’s when the dragons, who disdain emotion, feel things that I become a ball of emotion.

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Obviously, there’s one thing left I need to talk about, which is the romance. Well, no, two things. First, I want to praise Rachel Hartman for the inclusion of a transgender character in a fantasy, and I love the conversation that Seraphina has with the character and how very open Porphyrian society is to people gendering themselves. It’s truly beautiful. Also truly beautiful is the way that the drama between Kiggs and Seraphina wraps up. They’ve been keeping their relationship secret from his fiancé, Glisselda, but everyone’s actually really mature about it: View Spoiler »

Shadow Scale may be massive, but it warrants the length. Hartman adds a whole new cast of characters, and they’re all fabulous. This is a must read series for those who like brainy, thought-twisting reads, and for those looking for diverse, feminist literature. Rachel Hartman is confirmed as one of my favorite authors, and I cannot wait for her next book. *coughs* Seriously, teenage Abdo. *coughs*

Favorite Quote:

“Ah, children,” growled Dame Okra, watching him climb. “I forgot what darlings they are. How I long for the opportunity to forget once more.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif only thing i ever wanted sansa got

Giveaway:
Thanks to the folks at Random House, I have one giveaway copy for one of my readers in the US or Canada! Entry is simple. Just follow the directions in the Rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

13 responses to “Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman”

  1. Ty Wilson says:

    This book looks awesome and I would definitely join up with Seraphina. Thanks!

  2. Kristen says:

    I would join up. my power would be music also.

  3. I am in awe. You managed to say everything I want to say but in SO MUCH LESS SPACE. *bows down*

    And I would join up only if I could block out Jannoula. This noggin is a vault, thank you. But man, I have no idea what my power would be. Intuition like Okra would be fine, minus the indigestion.
    Shae/Shelver @ Shae Has Left The Room recently posted…Mini-Reviews: I’M GLAD I DID and THE THIRD TWINMy Profile

  4. erinf1 says:

    I really, really want to start this series! thanks for the very fun review! Love those GIFS 🙂

  5. Anita Yancey says:

    I would join up, but I’m not sure what power I would want. It sounds like a great book. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  6. Ashley says:

    If I were half-dragon, I would totally join up with Seraphina. I’m not sure what my power would be, I would like to think it would be related to reading.

    I haven’t really thought about being a saarantras. I think the idea of the human form of dragons is really interesting, but I was always more interested in Seraphina and the conflict of being not QUITE human, but also not fully a dragon.

  7. vvb says:

    Good review. I like how you incoporated Game of Thrones in Giffy mode 😉
    vvb recently posted…Happy release: Bittersweet by Kimberly LothMy Profile

  8. Hannah says:

    What a fantastic review! I have been eagerly awaiting Shadow Scale – it’s been a long 3 years! Think I’ll need to do a reread or at least check out a recap before I dive in, so that I don’t miss out on any of the details.

    SO glad the the romance worked out. I thought Kiggs & Serephina were lovely together in the previous book. And the whole fantasy-dragon aspect really captured my imagination, so I’m looking forward to seeing how everything culminates in this book.

    Fabulous females, a diverse cast, a war of wits instead of might… and did you say the book is massive? YUS! <3
    Hannah recently posted…Review: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy – Sam MaggsMy Profile

  9. Cordelia says:

    I would join up with seraphina, bc things are happening with her and there’s bound to be excitement. My power would probably be music also.

  10. Francene says:

    I’m a librarian so I bet I would be a great organizer. Maybe I could lock Jannoula into a card catalog drawer. I love this series and have enjoyed reading about Goredd and Seraphina’s world since I discovered Rachel Hartman’s comic, Amy Unbounded.

  11. Jessica says:

    I would gladly join the Seraphina but since I haven’t read the book yet, I’m not really sure what powers do I want.

  12. Susan Heim says:

    I would want my special power to be mind reading, and I would definitely join up with Seraphina!

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