**Thank you to Random House Children’s and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC of this novel**
I won’t lie: SHADOW SCALE was one of my most anticipated releases of 2015. I’ve waited two years for this novel. To have it in my hands was an amazing feeling. Also, knowing that this was a sequel, and not the second book of a trilogy was just as wonderful a feeling. I knew that I was getting a definite conclusion.
Honestly: this book was brilliant up until its climax. Rachel Hartman is meticulous in her construction of this novel from top to bottom. The complexity of the plot not only continues where the predecessor, SERAPHINA, left off, but continues to build in intricacy and intrigue. Even more importantly, Ms. Hartman takes her time — she neither fluffs nor pads her narrative, but simply recognizes that it’s a slower-moving story. Is it sad that I have to say this seems a rare occurrence in YA literature? It’s refreshing, and I loved it — I actually noted to myself around the 47% mark of this novel that I was amazed at the sheer volume of things that had happened and I was hardly even halfway through the novel.
As always the characters are phenomenal, building and growing throughout the course of the novel and there are plenty of things that are revealed about all of the characters, good and bad alike. Aside from the world-building of SERAPHINA’s world, the characters have always been the strongest element of this series: they’re infinitely complex and human, even the dragons. Their struggles, their wants, their fears — all of these are fascinating, even down to the side characters. Pair that with Ms. Hartman’s incredibly well thought out and familiar-but-not-quite-so world, and you have just incredibly engaging and entertaining reading.
However, if there is one stain upon this book, for me, it was the climactic action: it felt a little too much like a deus ex machina. For two books that had been so delicate and intricate in building their world, leaving nothing unturned, always taking the more realistic — for a fantasy — route when it came to resolving conflict, this climax was actually a little bit of a letdown. It was too abrupt, too easy. I felt like it needed more. I was left wanting and more than a little frustrated.
As for the epilogue: I can understand how some readers may end up being a little upset at its bittersweetness. I, however, find the decisions made by the characters perfectly in line with who those characters are/have been throughout the series. I wasn’t too terribly surprised, and I think that Seraphina’s line about the situation sums it up perfectly. I like to imagine in my head that behind closed doors things were (hopefully) a little different.