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Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

An Epic Journey

SHADOW SCALE
by Rachel Hartman

(Random House Books for Young Readers; $18.99, Ages 12 and up)

Starred Reviews – Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, & Booklist

Shadow-Scale-cvr.jpgIn this stunning sequel to Hartman’s first book, Seraphina, the author revisits the kingdom of Goredd. In the previous book the court musician, Seraphina, had to come to terms with the stigma surrounding her half dragon, half human ancestry. This book begins with Seraphina’s search for others of her kind, called the ityasaari. Seraphina hopes that gathering all the ityasaari together will help to protect the kingdom from the ongoing dragon-against-dragon wars. To find the other ityasaari, Seraphina must journey through many different kingdoms. However, with every ityasaari found, she comes closer to being controlled by one of her own. Jannoula, a powerful and highly manipulative half dragon, tries again and again to gain control of the minds of all the ityassari. It will take all that Seraphina has learned from her dragon uncle, Orma, and everything that she will learn along the way, to defeat Jannoula. Along the journey Seraphina encounters defeat, loss and hardship. Perhaps the greatest thing Seraphina learns is that set backs seldom mean defeat and that help can arise from the most unlikely places.

Hartman’s world is fascinating, complex and detailed. Spanning four kingdoms, each with its own unique customs, food, and sometimes even religion, Seraphina’s journey is a sprawling quest. Readers of the first book will remember her love interest with Prince Kiggs, which only grows more complex in this second installment. Seraphina’s dragon uncle and mentor, Orma, is mysteriously missing which also adds to the necessity of Seraphina’s search. With this parting of the guide, Seraphina must learn to navigate the world as an adult. Hartman examines the origin and function of religion in society to work for good or for evil closely in this sequel, which makes for a fascinating read. Shadow Scale is a tribute to the power of a talented author to create a fully realized fantasy world full of danger, tradition, sacrifice and love.

– Reviewed by Hilary Taber

Read our review of Seraphina here.

Of Dragons and Music and Dangerous Secrets

Seraphina Strikes a Most Positive Chord

Seraphina ($17.99, Random House Books for Young Readers, ages 12 and up), by Rachel Hartman, winner of the 2013 YALSA Morris Award for Best YA Debut Novel, is reviewed by Grace Duryée.

Tensions are high in the kingdom of Goredd. The tenuous peace treaty between men and dragons threatens to snap just as Ardmagar Comonot, the leader of the dragon community, comes to Goredd to celebrate forty years of uninterrupted peace between dragon and mankind. The royal family struggles to keep the conflict at bay for just a little longer, while trouble bubbles up from beneath them anyway. Huge resistance groups form, riots break out, and worst of all, the brutal–and strangely draconian–murder of one of their own: the widely respected Prince Rufus leaves the family at a loss at the worst possible time. Amidst all of this excitement is Seraphina, the gifted music mistress of Goredd’s castle. Seraphina is tossed head first into this wild tangle of trouble, torn between what is right and what is safe, who she can trust and who she can love. 

Seraphina-cvr.jpgRachel Hartman, the creator of this world and of the heroic woman Seraphina, skillfully lures her audience into this intoxicating tale of dragons that can fold themselves into humans, musicians that fall in love with princes, and secrets so dangerous they scarcely can even be thought about.  Hartman has lovingly woven the details of the beautiful world she has created into the pages of this fantastically original novel, bringing her audience to truly care about the characters and their relationships with each other. 

Seraphina being a musician is incredibly appropriate in that the story itself plays out exactly like an epic ballad played on her flute. It’s swirling melodies and booming crescendos make Seraphina a song that resonates for quite some time in the hearts of fantasy fans.

Fans of the Eragon series, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings – or anything dragon-related – will surely love this refreshing read. The intricate worlds of Goredd and Seraphina’s mind, along with the incredible lore, will surely leave all fantasy-loving young adult readers craving more of Hartman’s universe, and counting down the days to the release of the sequel to Seraphina, entitled Dracomachia, currently set for release in February of 2014. 

GraceToday’s guest reviewer, Grace Duryée, has been an avid reader since childhood, and values the experience reading provides for every person, particularly children and young adults. This is why Grace has recently taken an interest in children’s literature, and has attempted to combine it with her other long-time love: writing. Grace and her cousin Hilary have recently begun preparations for their very own children’s literature blog, and are both very excited to get it up and running! Grace is 20 years old, and in her spare time she plays too many video games and reads books about dragons. In her not-spare time, Grace is the manager of the teen and children’s department at a Barnes and Noble as well as a college student pursuing her degree in Economics and Business. 

A New Golden Age of Epic Fantasy Fiction Shines On

Seraphina ($17.99, Random House Book for Young Readers, ages 12 and up) is reviewed today by Jason Carpenter.

When George Lucas conceived of his Star Wars galaxy, he saw beyond the here and now of giving the people a rousing good yarn. He envisioned a mythology, a world logical and responsible only unto itself, with fantastical creatures that nonetheless felt of flesh and blood.  And like Tolkien before him and Rowling after, the devil- or the grip of imagination- is in the details. 

Rachel Hartman infuses her expansive new novel Seraphina– the saga of an uneasy alliance between mistrustful species (sound familiar?) and the young royal court’s musician who may end up being the key to ultimate harmony or lynchpin to inevitable war- with an eye for Joseph Campbell-like character and plot machinations and an adherence to a painstakingly created medieval alternaverse.

The oppositional species are, in this case, humans and dragons, and as Seraphina begins, a murder of a member of the royal court bearing the trademark savagery of a dragon attack threatens to derail the anniversary celebration of a historical, but tenuous, peace treaty between the two sides. In the midst of this pomp, Hartman also fully realizes the emergence of a young girl’s identity, the fiercely astute Seraphina, torturous as it may be to discover that her mother was a dragon. In a genre dominated by young empowered male principals, it’s  a wonderfully acute choice.

Seraphinas intended demographic, the young and young-at-heart, has proven they can handle the layered storylines, philosophical yearnings, and literal hundreds of major and minor characters that populate the modern fantasy epic. Indeed, Harry Potter’s enduring legacy may just be that it made digging intellectual sword and sorcery lit cool for a fresh generation of make-believers. This novel follows that template elegantly, and at over 450 pages with accompanying glossary, it’s weighty, as well.  The payoff- and it’s not the metaphoric allusions to our own world’s penchant for xenophobia- is in the small quirks of some strongly drawn supporting characters, particularly the reluctantly compassionate dragon mentor Orma, who cares for Seraphina in a way that his dragon demeanor would be loathe to reveal.

Seraphina does rise to rousing good yarn status, but its greatest triumph is in depicting grotesqueries that are anything but and a world that often doesn’t feel that far, far away after all.

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