Lytherus book club: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, part 1

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*Don’t forget, I’m interviewing Rachel sometime in the next week or so, so get your questions in! Feel free to write them in the comments below*

This long-awaited sequel to SERAPHINA was something I was excited to read. And it didn’t let me down. These books together tell a wonderful story, and I really enjoyed the direction the second book went. So, today let’s dive into the first half of SHADOW SCALE and see what goodies Rachel Hartman had in store for us!

First up, here’s the blurb of SHADOW SCALE. If you haven’t read SERAPHINA there will be some mild spoilers, be warned!

61KW8eu2uVL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

SERAPHINA leaves off with a dragon civil war brewing between those that want peace with humans and those who don’t. We also see our main character, Seraphina, planning on setting off into the world to try and find the other half-dragons like herself. There’s also the hidden love between her and the Prince Kiggs.

Here are the main points in the first half of the book (chapters 1-17):

  • Three months have passed since the end of book 1.
  • Eskar, a warrior dragon, returns to the kingdom with news of uncle Orma, who is in hiding from the censors who want to clear the emotion out of his brain. In a letter to Seraphina he mentions discovering something about half-dragons being able to blend their minds together into a web of sorts.
  • Discussing the net with the others, Abdo reveals that he can see their energy (he calls it soul-light), and speculates that this must be what is combined to make the net. Also, all of them have strands connected to Seraphina. She, however, seems to be missing her soul-light.
  • They try to weave the soul-light net and succeed, so Seraphina sets out to find the others, with Abdo in tow.
  • Lots of journeying happens next. First stop is Dame Okra’s area, and they find Neduard, a plague doctor with a good soul and a finch beak. He agrees to join their cause.Next they come across the hermit gal, Blanche, who tentatively agrees, with convincing from Abdo. Then off to find the painter, Od Fredricka, who vehemently refuses.
  • They head off to a nearby mountain to find a giant half-dragon, Gianni Pato. Everyone’s scared of him as he comes into town, and then, to make things worse for himself, he kills an assassin priest who followed the group after visiting Od Fredricka. But not before the priest throws a knife, which severs the tendons in Abdo’s hand. Also disturbing, he calls out Seraphina’s name, which he shouldn’t know.
  • Seraphina realizes it’s Jannoula, and reflects on her story. Jannoula is a half-dragon with a terrible real life, so when Seraphina was younger she used to offer her a peaceful place to escape in her mind. But slowly Jannoula took over her mind without Seraphina realizing, becoming her, and eventually Seraphina locked her away into a dark stone cabin in her mind where she couldn’t come out. That had been years ago, and she’s still scared of Jannoula’s powers, especially now that she’s back. She seems to leave the giant for the time though.
  • They get back to Dame Okra’s, and as they tried to take Gianni Pato into the city he roars, and Josquin, their friend and guide on the first part of the journey, falls off his horse and breaks his back, becoming paralyzed. Seraphina realizes Jannoula is back.
  • The next day, talking to Dame Okra, Seraphina realizes with horror that Jannoula is in her mind now too. She’s controlling Dame Okra, saying that they have the same goal, to bring the half-dragons together, but Seraphina doesn’t trust her a bit. To confirm it, Od Fredricka shows up, saying she wants to join them now. Jannoula got to her too and changed her mind. Seraphina is appalled and scared. She warns Glisselda and Kiggs about Jannoula and all she’s up to.
  • Before they set out to find more half-dragons Seraphina gets a letter from Orma. He sends a pearl ring along with it, saying it’s important, but not explaining. He also says he has things to tell her when he sees her.
  • Abdo reveals in passing the next day that Jannoula visits the minds of the half-dragons where he’s from, but the head priest half-dragon can unhook her from their minds. Abdo says he knows how to do it too. He tries to unhook Dame Okra, but not only fails but has to battle Jannoula in his mind. He says he’s free of her.
  • They head to a city in the next country, where all the Earls are scheduled to report on a certain day, and Seraphina hopes to find one of the half-dragons among them. On the way Abdo grows more and more listless.  That night Abdo was taken over by Jannoula while he slept. She let him believe he was free of her, but she hooked him too. He continues to fight her, though it’s taking its toll on him.
  • The group heads to the capital (on a dubious lead from Jannoula), and upon arrival notice that an army has camped around the city. Alarmed, they head for the leader and discover that it’s Josef, the thought-to-be villain in book 1. He’s marched his army right in and taken over as king. And worse, Jannoula is his right hand man, so to speak.He had cancelled the earl meeting so that no one could vote against him. And he’s not sharing the info with Glisselda.
  • Jannoula has him in awe. She projects her soul-light out for people to see and they think she’s a living saint. She’s also hooked another half-dragon, Ingar. She convinces Josef to let them continue on, but not before he takes away the devices that allow Seraphina to to communicate with home, and she sends Ingar with them (“to help” she says, but really to keep an eye on things, since he’s fully hooked).
  • On the trip Ingar reveals that Lars is also hooked. She contacts Lars to warn Glisselda and Kiggs about Josef as the new leader before Jannoula can figure out what she can do.
  • Once on land Abdo takes them to his home, where he doesn’t get out of bed. Seraphina gets another device to communicate with home and passes on all the news she’s learned about Jannoula.
  • To discract Ingar while she sets off to find the half-dragons in the city Seraphina takes him to the library. While there she discovers a book of her uncle’s, with notes inside about his research on human-dragon breeding. He speculates that the saints everyone worshipped were, in fact, half-dragons. She also finds an old book he mentions, though it’s in a language she doesn’t understand. She takes it.
  • As she’s leaving she’s confronted by half-dragon Cambra, who works for the priest half-dragon, Pende. She takes them both to him. Ingar fights, as Pende is known to be able to unhook Jannoula from minds, but Cambra captures him anyway.
  • The priest looks into Seraphina’s mind to prove she’s not with Jannoula, and he tells her that she used to have power but she’s locked it up. They can’t even see her soul-light at all. She sets free the little bit of Pende she has from her mind as his request. He then frees Ingar from Jannoula, which throws him into a state of shock.

It’s really hard to sum up Rachel’s books, because there’s just so much that happens! All of it is relevant, and interesting, and propels the story forward. This book is all about the half-dragons and what it means to find them and bring them together. It’s also become clear that, even though there’s a dragon civil war brewing, Jannoula is the villain of the story. She says she has the same goals as Seraphina, and yet she’s terrifying with her ability to take over people’s minds and control them. At this point she seems like an unstoppable force. She won’t get Seraphina as long as she’s blocked off, but slowly she’s taking hold of all the other half-dragons around her.

Most of these 275 pages or so have been a journey, a slow burn building up characters and situations that pull from bits of the first book, but mainly add to the richness of the knowledge we already have of this world and its characters. Stay tuned, for we’ll cover the second half of the book this week as well, and I can’t wait to see where the story takes us. There are a lot of loose ends at the moment, and things are feeling pretty hopeless. This should be good!

Don’t forget, I’m interviewing Rachel sometime in the next week or so, so get your questions in!! Feel free to post them in the comments below. We really want to hear what you have to say about these books and characters!

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About Author

Lauren Zurchin is a professional photographer, creator of the 'Beyond Words' author calendar, and a life-long book enthusiast. When not catching up on the latest YA titles, she can be found nerding out to birds and roadtripping across the US.

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