Random House Books for Young Readers
Half-dragon, half-human Seraphina seeks out others like her in this sequel to the Morris Award winning book Seraphina. At the end of the last book, Seraphina has only met a couple of the ityassari, the name for half-dragons, face to face and the others she only knew of through psychic connections she had built with all of them. On the brink of war, she discovers that ityassari can combine their “mind fire” to create a new and effective defense against the dragons that threaten to attack the kingdom of Goredd and reverse the fragile peace the region has been enjoying. Queen Glissenda of Goredd sends Seraphina on a mission to collect the half-dragons and bring them back, but Seraphina also sees this as an opportunity to connect with the beings she has only seen in her dreams and meditations. As she travels the countryside, she accidentally rekindles a relationship that she worked very hard to break with manipulative, clever, and villainous half-dragon named Jannoula who has designs of her own for the war, Seraphina, and the other ityassari.
Hartman’s world building is some of the best I have read in a long time. I love fantasy novels that explore different cultures within the world of the book, each with their own traditions and customs. The kingdoms in Shadow Scale – Goredd, Samsam, Porphyry, Ninys, and the Tanamoot – each have their own tolerance for half-dragons, varying levels of conservatism or liberalism, their own foods and language. Race and gender are also fluid in Seraphina’s world. Dragons in their human form – also called saarantrai – can change the darkness of their skin. Dragons and half-dragons can also choose their gender and the pronouns they go by, as an ityassari named Camba demonstrates when Seraphina gets to Porphyry. If you need more proof that this world goes deep, the Seraphina series now has its own wiki.
There’s also a fabulous twist in the love triangle that started in the first book among Seraphina, Prince Lucian Kiggs, and Queen Glisselda, cousin and fiancée to Kiggs. I won’t say much because I don’t want to give away anything. Mercifully, Hartman didn’t make this love triangle the focus of Shadow Scale as many fantasy writers would be tempted to do. The main plot of gathering the ityassari together is completely independent and much more important than any love story, but the sexual tension remains, even if it is mostly in the background, until nearly the end of the book.
Rachel Hartman published a free online prequel to Seraphina called The Audition, available on Scribd. Otherwise it is unclear whether there will be any more Seraphina stories. I was skeptical at the end of the first book when I realized it wouldn’t be a stand-alone book. As much as I loved the story and the characters, I feared additional books would run the risk of ruining the story for me. I’m so glad I was proven wrong!