By Rachel Hartman
608 pgs, Hardback
Random House Publishing, (March 10, 2015)
I was privileged to get this as an early release from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Now I had passed on Seraphina, the first in this series because honestly I love dragon fantasy books, but a teen book 400 pages long called “epic fantasy”. Hmmmm, Well, Seraphina is epic (for teen) and after reading the few chapter synopsis I agreed to read and review Shadow Scale. I even bought the first book and read it through. Good world building, interesting concepts (not new, but well applied) and while the whole dragons as Vulcans (extracting all emotions, hyper logical, use advanced tech) while the humans were too emotional and stuck in the Middle Ages (pencils as hellish) sort of gave me pause, it was still a fun story. And Seraphina was a fun protagonist to follow.
Let me start with the good. Shadow Scale is a detailed and well written second (and final) book about Seraphina a half dragon music prodigy and her mission to defend her people. Teens will love the clean politics, the rebellious teen dragons, and the evil villain. The fighting is described, but not too bloody. And there is so much description, that the reader might find themselves creating a mind pearl to contain it all. This is a good transition book into the wider world of adult fantasy novels. I can think of many series to recommend if a teen likes this book.
Now why the somewhat mixed review. The length of this book made it hard to get through for a teen fantasy. A 608 page hardback? I found myself skimming whole exposition chapters as irrelevant to the larger story and actually yelled at my e-reader “get on with it” at one point. And since when did Epic mean long winded? Tightly written tense novels that span continents are not necessarily 600 pages. And the ending was eye rolling. I believe that teen readers should get stories where the good guy does not always get a tidy solution. Life is messy, let’s see how a strong character deals with that. Tidy is for junior fiction. Epic means that there is tragedy, loss, and redemption. There was a great deal of frustration, and good mastermind politicking, but the end… Not a big fan of “Hand of God” solutions. A four star for a teen book, three star for adults reading it for themselves.
Conclusions? If you loved the first book, you will love the second. Will I recommend this series for our library? This is a hard one. I don’t know how many of my teen readers would get through all of book two. I can recommend book one, but will wait to see how many requests for book two we get before recommending purchasing Shadow Scale.
Parental notes. Again not much. There is some lusting and kissing, and dispassionate descriptions of a torturous childhood of a main character, but it all is pretty bloodless. Even the killings seem almost clinical and devoid of the horror I would expect in a battle. Twelve might be a bit young for the length and scope of the story. I don’t mean a twelve year old can not read and understand the story, it is just so long that threads may get lost if your child is not a fast reader. And there are a lot of characters with multiple aliases to keep track of. I would have liked a character cheat sheet and a map, but since my copy is an ARC those might be included in the final release, no points off.