Sunday, March 22, 2015

An enchanting fantasy tale for young and old

After a long wait, author Rachel Hartman has published the sequel to her debut young adult fantasy novel Seraphina. In 2012, Seraphina captured the hearts of fantasy readers with its great premise and wonderful characters. Set in the Kingdom of Goredd, where dragons can change into human form and live among humans, the story revolves around Seraphina, a girl with a human father and a dragon mother. This is a fact that she has to hide from everyone, for although dragons can live freely among humans, their cold logic and lack of emotions cause humans to distrust them, and not many can accept or even imagine that they can interbreed with humans. But Seraphina soon ceases to be all alone in the world as the only half-dragon when she discovers that the “garden of grotesques” she created in her mind with its strange inhabitants contains the avatars of real people, who, like her, are half-dragons.

In Shadow Scale, Seraphina is sent on a mission by the queen to unite the half-dragons in order to fight against the corrupt dragons who took over the Dragon Kingdom. When Seraphina sets out on a task she merely considers a safe diplomatic mission, she is not aware of a threat that she is facing. As Seraphina starts finding each half-dragon and asking for his or her alliance, she comes face-to-face with a foe she had thought long defeated – the only half-dragon from her garden who threatened to take over her mind completely. Now, that person is slowly taking over the minds of all half-dragons for a purpose of her own.

Rachel Hartman created a wonderful world in Seraphina, with much attention to detail and many great ideas – dragons who can change into humans, a mysterious garden full of strange characters – and a lovable heroine. I was impatient to get back to this wonderful and intricate fantasy world, and in many ways this book was similar to the first one. There was as much focus on the world-building, introducing other kingdoms and even more characters. There is also a much more interesting villain to battle in Shadow Scale, one who is elusive and maybe even slightly disturbing, making this book a lot more mature than the first one and much more appealing to a teen audience.

One issue with Serpahina that is repeated with Shadow Scale is its pacing. While many people may hang on Hartman’s every word and find joy in each colorful character and description, others (like me) might find the seemingly endless lack of plot until the very end of the book daunting. There is a point just short of halfway where the story falters and does not gain traction until the very end. Thus, despite its many great qualities, this is a book that might only have an appeal for dedicated fantasy readers.

Editor's note: If you are one of those, you can find both books in the Young Adult (Teen) section of all three libraries--Seraphina in the regular collection, and Shadow Scale in the new teen books. The library also offers Seraphina as an e-book.

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