Wednesday, March 18, 2015

There Be Dragons

Seraphina book cover
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina #1
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

I was so, so thrilled to learn that Shadow Scale, the second and final novel in this duo was coming out this year. It felt like I'd been waiting for quite some time to get more of Seraphina's story, and finally, my waiting was going to come to an end! Though I didn't particularly need to reread it (because there's a handy recap in Shadow Scale), I wanted to. Seraphina was an impressive debut novel, and I wanted to see if that had held up in the three years since I'd first read it. End verdict? A resounding YES.

WHEN I First Read

I read Seraphina in November of 2012, a few months after its July release. I'd requested the book at the library, predictably because it prominently features dragons. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I first cracked the novel open (figuratively, not literally), but I was immediately hooked on the story from the very first pages.

WHAT I Remember

Seraphina is a talented musician; she's also hiding a secret - she's half human, half dragon. I also remembered her love interest, though I didn't quite remember his name or his actual role in the story; I really just remembered one particular moment between them. I remember the beautiful depictions of music too! Other than that, I honestly could not remember any of the plot, which makes me a little bit sad because I loved it so and gave it such a high rating.

WHY I Wanted To Re-Read

Well, the most obvious reason is because I wanted a refresher before I read Shadow Scale. But, as I mentioned in the previous section, I really couldn't remember anything except a few tiny details! I longed to see if I would have the same response to the novel this time around, so that was a huge factor in my decision to read it again.

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading

IT IS A TERRIBLE THING THAT I FORGOT HOW WONDERFUL SERAPHINA IS. Because, friends, Seraphina is great! It's a solid fantasy story, one that's pretty damn unique, and I loved it just as much this time around. It felt like I was discovering new things about an old friend, and I loved every single minute I was immersed in this amazing world Rachel Hartman had created, alongside these characters I loved.

WOULD I Re-Read Again

Honestly, there is no doubt in my mind that I would revisit Seraphina at a later date. It's seriously one of the most compelling + unique fantasy novels I've read, plus, in my opinion, she does dragons so dang well. If you're on the hunt for a unique fantasy to check out this year, I'd put this one forward for consideration, for sure.

Shadow Scale book cover
Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina #2
Publisher: Random House Children's Book
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Source/Format: Netgalley || e-galley
[I received this for review. This in no way affects the opinions expressed in my review.]

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?

It was a true pleasure to be able to go into Shadow Scale right after my reread, as I was still completely enamored with the world, the characters, the story that Rachel Hartman has brought to life in these novels. This novel basically picks up a little after Seraphina ends, and tells of two things in particular: Seraphina's journey to find other ityasaari (half-dragons) and the way the conflict between dragons and humans unfolds. 

Sounds like a sophomore novel to dazzle, does it not? The world-building, lore and characterization are certainly impressive, as Hartman combines what readers are familiar with from Seraphina with new details in Shadow Scale. I particularly loved getting to know more of the ityasaari, since the lot of them each had an individual talent that set them apart from the others. And in terms of plot, Shadow Scale was great! There was the brewing tension that heralds a war, the subtlety of figuring out who could be trusted and who were enemies, the formation of new friendships and allies, and even just the barest hint of romance. 

But I clearly had an issue, and it's all got to do with the pacing. While it was fun to see Seraphina venture out of Gorredd to find the ityasaari, too much time, I feel, was spent chronicling her journey. There are certainly some significant moments as she finds, befriends and cajoles each new ityasaari into joining the cause; but for the most part, it could have all been condensed. The pacing does pick up, however, when Seraphina is faced with the main conflict - the war between dragons and human involvement in it. And personally, I like how it ends!

In spite of my singular reservation, Shadow Scale is good.  Hartman tells the rest of Seraphina's tale beautifully, and readers will be thrilled to be able to learn what becomes of Seraphina, her friends, the dragons and the kingdom of Goredd. It is certainly worth picking up and reading, especially if you loved Seraphina.

8 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed Shadow Scale. I loved being able to learn more about the ityassari as well. I also found the pacing to be a bit problematic but I think it was because it didn't really seem to connect with the larger story until the very end. Definitely a great sequel though.
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally

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  2. I read Shadow Scale recently and I loved it, too, but had a similar problem with it - I felt it could have been shorter because her time on the road takes up so much of the book. I like how Seraphina learns to accept herself during the journey, when she sees how differently other cultures see the half-dragons, but I sometimes wanted to speed things up a little.

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  3. OOh I keep seeing amaaazing reviews of this everywhere. I'm always excited when I hear of good, contemporary fantasy books. I'll pick it up eventually.

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  4. I'm next in the queue for Shadow Scale at my library, so I'm excited to read this. I'll keep potential issues with the pacing in mind, but I'm really looking forward to meeting all of the characters Seraphina tells us are out there (particularly Jannoula), and also seeing where Shadow Scale ends.

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  5. GAH I'm so excited to read this! It's on my list after Crimson Bound and Winner's Cure. I think I've been waiting because I know it's the last book, at least announced. I adored Seraphina more than most books. Like you, I'll most likely revisit it later in my life. It struck me with a sense of wonder the same way Howl's Moving Castle did. I'm glad you liked Shadow Scale and that it beat sophomore slump. Despite the journeying...tsk tsk, authors, traveling is only interesting if something happens. Great review!

    C.J.

    Sarcasm & Lemons

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  6. I've had Seraphina on my tbr for ages! After reading this I'm convinced this has to be read ASAP! I love me some dragons.

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  7. I've been hearing so much about Seraphina and really need to pick it up! Anything with dragons in basically has my vote already!

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  8. I only just read Seraphina for the first time recently and I plan on reading Shadow Scale soon! Or rather, listen to it, since I bought the audiobook. It sounds like I will have to really pay attention since the pacing is a little slow - that tends to be when my mind starts to wonder! I had no idea this was a duology! I really liked Seraphina and am glad to hear Shadow Scale is a solid sequel! Can't wait!

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