This is the second book in the Seraphina series. Seraphina is a half dragon/half human musician who, in the last book, was trying to hide her identity from those around her because, in this world where dragons are real, her existence was considered an abomination by religious authorities. How would a human and a dragon come together to make such a child, you ask? Dragons can take human form when they choose to, the trouble is that, they’re not very human-like in their actions and behavior, even when they do. Dragons consider emotions to be beneath logic, so, to put it in Star Trek terms, Hartman wrote them like Vulcans.
Seraphina, for a young adult novel, was rather complex. Not only was Seraphina dealing with her species identity, there’s also religious conflicts, internal/emotional conflicts, a meditation based “magic” system, a burgeoning war between the humans and dragons, factions on both sides who are opposed to the majority, dragon culture and hierarchy questions, tricky cross species friendships, the obligatory romance that every young adult book seems it MUST have and, in Shadow Scale, the added complication of Seraphina trying to find other half dragons like herself. It’s mind-boggling really when you write it all down and try to sort it out. I enjoyed trying to keep it all straight but I can see how Seraphina might not be a good fit for reluctant readers. There is a long list of characters at the end so that if you get confused, you can look each one up. If that kind of thing makes you crazy, you may want to pass on this one.
Seraphina has really come into her own in this story. Hartman certainly doesn’t skimp on the characterizations:“These scales, my visible emblem of shame… which I had hidden, suppressed, and even once tried to pry off with a knife- how was i now able to laugh about them with strangers? Something had changed in me. I was such a long way from where I had started.”pg 436, ebook.
My favorite parts of this book were anything to do with dragons! :“Dragons lay one egg at a time, and we grow slowly. Each death is significant, and so we settle our differences with litigation, or with an individual combat at most. It has never been our way to fight on this scale; if the war continues, our whole species loses.” pg 38, ebook.
Seraphina has a dream- to bring all the half-dragons like herself together to create a family, of sorts: “I am on a mission to find all our kind. Goredd requires our assistance with the dragon civil war, but once that’s over, I hope we might form a community of half-dragons, supporting and valuing each other.” Dame Okra rolled her eyes so hard I feared she’d give herself an aneurysm.” pg 112, ebook.
The intolerance taught by the religion in Seraphina’s world was terrifying, perhaps because it sounded so real: “I was no great hand at scripture- I avoided most of it- but I knew every line written about my kind, thanks to the pamphlet Orma had made me. “Half human, all malevolence” was one of Abaster’s best. Or: “If a woman hath lain with the beast, beat her with a mallet until she miscarries or dies. Let it be both, lest her horrifying issue live to claw its way out, or the woman live to conceive evil again.” pg 287, ebook. One of the main messages of Seraphina is tolerance for different cultures- that everyone has something positive to contribute in their own way.
As much as I gripe about the romance that always crops up in the young adult books, at least this one is well written:“However strenuously the world pulls us apart, however long the absence, we are not changed for being dashed upon the rocks. I knew you then, I know you now, I shall know you again when you come home.” pg 491, ebook. Awww, right?
This is a well written fantasy about dragons- fire breathing, scaled, roaring dragons! There’s nothing in here that parents should find objectionable for their teens to read and the messages that it teaches are worth while and should be repeated. Some read alikes: Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr (first book in a long, adult series, but, eventually, there’s dragons!) or The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (appropriate for young adults).
Thanks for reading!