Friday, 1 May 2015

Review: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Released: March 10th 2015
My Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

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?
(from Goodreads)

NOTE: this review contains spoilers. Proceed with caution.

It pains me to say this, but this book was such a disappointment for me. I loved Seraphina, absolutely loved it, but this was not on the same level. I had been looking forward to this book for years, and to have it turn out like this is really sad. I wanted to love it, I tried so hard, but in the end it was just a miss for me.

I did like some things, including the glimpse of Seraphina as an old woman, which we got to see at the beginning. I also thought it was interesting to learn about Jannoula's backstory and why Seraphina was so afraid of her. It definitely wasn't what I was expecting, and I enjoyed being surprised by that and Jannoula's power, which was pretty damn scary. I liked the diverse set of locations and characters included as well. One of my favourite parts was the reveal about Glisselda, which I was sort of expecting, but was happy to have confirmed. It made a lot of sense and Glisselda has always been one of my favourite characters, so I was glad she could finally be honest. Eska also grew on me as a character, which I didn't expect, though her ending was kind of weird.

The rest of this book though, I did not enjoy. I was hoping Seraphina leaving the castle would be interesting, but it turned out to be a boring journey that was dragged out for so long. I just wanted it to end. Seraphina was trying to find all of the other ityasaari by using the visions she could see in her mind (her garden of grotesques). While meeting some of them, like Master Smasher, was definitely interesting, I was just wishing she'd get on with it and find them all quickly. If there weren't so many of them to find, maybe it would have been better, but having to track down each and every one individually across different areas, oh my God. I just got bored. Even with Jannoula invading people's minds, even when Abdo got ill - everything just dragged out for too long and I felt like no actual progress was being made. The writing, I don't know whether it was too descriptive or whether I just didn't care about what was happening - either way, I was not invested in this excessively long road trip. And the more Seraphina was away from the castle, the less time she got to spend with Kiggs and Glisselda who were two of my favourite characters. We were stuck with all these uninteresting newbies being introduced instead, while those two were barely in it. I missed Orma too, he wasn't in it much either. And okay, yes I did like some of the characters we ended up meeting, but again, the journey just took too long.

And while I was thinking the whole way that this book was not as good as the first book, I was really hoping the ending might be able to turn it around, but nope, it just cemented my disappointment. The solution was a cop-out, they beat Jannoula way too easily after all the trouble she caused with a method that didn't really make much sense to me (what even was that? Am I the only one who was confused? Did Jannoula really not see it coming despite the fact she was practically all-knowing before?). And after that, NOTHING was resolved. I'm going to get into spoilers now, so beware, but it just didn't make sense to me. Glisselda and Kiggs decided to get married even though BOTH of them were actually in love with Seraphina, and Seraphina was in love with Kiggs. When the issue of what they would do when they needed an heir came up, it was shrugged off as a problem they would get to when the time came. Like, what the actual hell. After all this waiting and build up, THIS is what we end up with? Nothing was discussed. It was unclear what anyone's feelings actually meant and whether anyone would actually be together. Did Kiggs plan on keeping Seraphina as his mistress? Would she even be okay with that? What about Glisselda - would she get any resolution? Or would it just be an angst fest where everyone denied their feelings forever? I was just confused to be honest. I get that Glisselda didn't want to marry a stranger, but I didn't really see why she couldn't have a long engagement, and then rule alone? Or change the law so she could marry whoever she wanted/didn't have to get married? She was Queen after all! Queen of a new kind of era as well, after all that happened in this book. Surely some change could have been accepted. What were they actually planning to do here? And what happened to Kiggs's and Seraphina's promise of "the time will come"? The time never came! And even if we let that go as a non-issue and say it's all fine because of feelings or whatever, nothing else was resolved either! The future of the ityasaari and human-dragon relations was still sort of left hanging. Abdo just decided to leave after everything. The future was barely discussed, especially the whole society based on saints system which would clearly be needing some kind of adjustment now. And what about Orma? It was a mess! And there's no sequel to wrap any of this up so I'm just left with all these questions.

Overall, this book was not nearly as good as I hoped it'd be. It had none of the charm of book one and I'm actually surprised by how much I didn't like it.

4 comments:

  1. Well damn. I haven't read Seraphina yet. Did it end well enough that I could not continue with the series? How sad that it dragged so much for you and then had a bad ending too. That's the worst.

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    1. I think you can just read Seraphina without continuing the series (I so wish I had now). The ending doesn't really resolve anything, but it's not a cliffhanger either.

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  2. Oooh, heartbreak. That is so sad when a sequel just doesn't live up to the first book, or at very least come close. I'm sorry this was such a disappointment for you, Liz! I haven't read either book, but I may just read the first! Can book one stand on it's own or does in leave the story unfinished?

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    1. It was definitely upsetting, especially since I wanted to love it so much! As for book one, it does leave the story unfinished, but in a way that you could probably imagine a better ending than the actual sequel. I still think it's worth the read if you like fantasy with dragons!

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