And in contrast to Death Marked, which was ready for me right when I wanted to read it, I (along with other fans) had to wait three long years for this book, the sequel to Seraphina, which I liked so much that I even did a multi-type advisory post on it.
Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartmann. Random House, 2015
Things are not going well for Seraphina’s kingdom. Glisselda, just a young princess in the last book, is now queen, and the Queen Mother, her grandmother, is not doing well, Jannoula, the half-dragon woman who took over Seraphina’s mind when she was a child, is trying again to take over the world. On a personal level, Seraphina and Prince Lucian Kiggs have mutually agreed to ignore their feelings for each other in favor of protecting Glisselda, to whom Lucian is engaged for very good political reasons. Seraphina decides that the best defense, both against Jannoula and the threat of future dragon attack, is for her to find the other ityasaari or half-dragons from her visions and ask them to join together to protect the kingdom and each other.
A long, episodic tale follows, as Seraphina travels from one kingdom to the next trying to find the other ityasaari as well as her uncle, who had left to do some research stopped sending messages some time ago. Some of the ityasaari want to come, some are repelled by the very idea. I enjoyed seeing all the different cultures, with their varying people, foods and views on the roles of ityasaari. Seraphina’s young acrobat ityasaari friend Abdo comes from a culture that sees people as having six genders, for example, which was fascinating. And after the journeying part comes a quig rebebellion – quigs being small, intelligent lizard-like creatures that the dragons have long used as slaves – and that was even more fun.
I had somewhat mixed reactions to this. Seraphina is very unhappy much of the time, in both this and the previous book. That book, though, was leavened by her music, lovingly described, and by her relationship with Kiggs. Now the romance is put on hold and there is much less music, so that even though I couldn’t honestly say that Seraphina is more depressed than she was in the first book, it was much more noticeable here. I spent a long time thinking over the ending, trying to decide if it was just me being upset with it – but I think not. I can’t say more without risk of too many spoilers – but it was unsatisfying on many levels, the kind of ending that was too much finding peace with the way things are and not enough happiness for people who have earned it. I know that one can’t really earn happiness in the real world, but one of the reasons that I prefer reading children’s and young adult literature is that I like to read happy endings anyway.
I still love Seraphina. I will still read anything else that Rachel Hartmann writes.
Even if that makes me inconsistent.