Lytherus book club: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, part 2

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We’re deep in the middle of SHADOW SCALE, the sequel to SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman. And wow, the second half of this book … it’s fantastic.  I absolutely loved the path the story took. Let’s dive right in, but not before I remind you to comment below with any questions you might have for the lovely author, as we have an exclusive interview looming on the horizon!

Okay! So, We left off with Seraphina and Ingar visiting with the priest half-dragon Pende and Cambra, his half-dragon acolyte. Pende removed Jannoula from Ingar’s mind, and Cambra is caring for him to help him find himself again. Here are the major goodies that happen in the second half of this book:

  • Seraphina takes the little book to Ingar to translate, to distract his mind. Camba and Ingar weren’t home, and as she leaves she spots a half-dragon with wings above. Seraphina tries to talk to her but she just flies away. Over the next few weeks she tries repeatedly to see Cambra but is met with excuse after excuse and never gets in.
  • She heads to the part of the city that housed dragon exiles to look for her uncle and Eskar, his dragon guardian and girlfriend. She talks to a dragon and he confirms that Eskar has been there, but she’s been gone for two weeks without word. And he knows Orma but hasn’t seen him.
  • Abdo is in bad shape. Pende can’t unhook Jannoula while Abdo fights with her, so they’re forced to wait the battle out. Abdo is in a half-state.
  • She sets off to find the other half-dragons. They all avoid her or are unreachable. After she steps in the path of one she learns that the priest won’t let them talk to her, he worries she’ll take them away. They can’t disobey, but she’s looking for a loophole.
  • She finally is invited into Camba’s. All the local half-dragons are there, excited to talk to Seraphina. She learns about how Pende took all of them under his wing and helped them. But they all have disappointed him in some way, leaving the temple and his god for other paths (except Camba). There’s a familiarity between them that Seraphina has dreamed of for her kind. Ingar also reveals that the book she gave him is the only known testament of the heretic saint. Ingar promised to write up a translation for her to read.
  • Glisselda told her that Kiggs and Comonot were traveling to her, with the plan to have the dragon leader head into the mountains to the dragon capital, where dragon politics required he be listened to. Kiggs was to take her home with the other half-dragons.
  • Kiggs revealed that he came with Comonot to see Seraphina, which has him feeling guilty about keeping it from Glisselda.
  • She’s summoned to a meeting of dragons, where we meet a teenage dragon who is determined to identify with the country she’s in, not the dragon one. Eska also shows up, and encourages them to take over a censor lab up the valley on the way to the dragon capital, to help them hide, etc. She also reveals that Orma is there.
  • the next day a ship is pursued into the harbor. It’s filled with the knights who were training to fight dragons, escaping their island home that was attacked by Josef. They’re forced to leave the following day to head for Glisselda’s kingdom, and Kiggs goes with them. Seraphina decides to go with the dragons up into the mountains to try and save her uncle.
  • Before they leave Seraphina takes Abdo to Pende to get Jennoula unhooked. But as Pende tries to remove her she tricks them all and not only stays hooked in Abdo but manages to hook into the old priest too.
  • On her way home she passes a gathering where the teen dragon and her friends reveal that some of the dragons are leaving, and that there are enemy ships in the harbor that they can help with. They turn into dragons and, working together, burn down the enemy fleet. They are subsequently banished for essentially starting a war.
  • The dragons and Seraphina leave, heading up into the mountains. When they get to the censor lab a group of four head in, Eskar and Seraphina being two of them. Eskar tells Seraphina that she was mated to Orma.
  • They sneak in through the sewers, where they run into quigs (the smaller dragons). The leader says he’s been waiting for them and that everything is in place. Eskar tells them they have two days to get all the sabotage finished and that Seraphina and the teen dragon (Brisi) will help them.
  • Once inside she asks a quig to help her locate Orma. He takes her to a computer room, and though there’s a file on him they can’t seem to locate him in the lab. In conversation he says in passing that there was a half-human trapped here, that the censors raised it from a baby and did experiments on it. He says that she wasn’t released, but that the war dragons used her because she became amazing at strategy. He reveals that she’s actually the famous General Laedi, a brutal war general. This also revealed that she was working for the enemy dragons.
  • The battle happens. While the dragons are fighting a quig takes Seraphina to question a doctor dragon about Orma. He has a message for her from Jannoula, that her uncle was sent to her, at Seraphina’s home, and that she was done playing.
  • She follows Comonot and Eskar to the archives where they talk to the old archivist about Jannoula. She’s been manipulating all sides for a while, encouraging the old thinking dragons to challenge the peace. She even knew about Imlann, hidden as a spy.
  • The archivist reveals something called the Great Mistake. 700 years prior dragons experimented, breeding with humans. As Orma suspected, these had to be the saints. They were meant to be an army against humans, but they sided with the humans and created the martial art that kills dragons instead. After this failure dragons created the censors to not only eliminate the memories of this but to also make sure something like it never happened again.
  • The five teen dragons fly Seraphina back to her home. On the way they encounter a hostile dragon and work as a team to take him down, something dragons usually don’t do.
  • She lands in a field with the knights. Kiggs is there, and she says she wants to talk to the queen. He informs her that Jannoula got there before he got back and he’s not allowed in the city. Lars snuck her in. And worse, she’s declared herself a saint and the people are buying it. They decide to sneak Seraphina into the castle to befriend Jannoula and see if she can free the queen from her influence.
  • She hops into Neduard’s mind that night, and he reveals that she’s gotten him too. And that all the foreign ones are there except Abdo. She checks in on most of them and confirms this. Abdo is in the woods outside the city. Everyone else seems trapped by Jannoula’s mind except Camba.
  • Seraphina and Kiggs sneak in that night. They try to get to the queen but Seraphina can’t bluff her way in. So they wait in a room off the council chambers till the following day’s meeting. They share a passionate kiss.
  • In the meeting the next day Seraphina reveals herself and also that Jannoula is the famous General Laedi. Everyone buys her explanation, that it was all to get her to Seraphina, everything she’s done, to unite all the “saints”.
  • She settles in with the other half-dragons, biding her time while she tried to figure out what was going on. She witnessed the others making a net out of the mind-fire and how everyone fell to their knees when they saw it. Jannoula had also preched about Seraphina to the masses, calling her the counter-saint (which back in the day was the dude who challenged the power-greedy saint leader and was subsequently buried alive).
  • Phina confers with Kiggs and it seems like he’s getting swayed too. He says that the net will help stop dragons and protect the city and that the country was more important and that getting rid of Jannoula could wait. He gets caught following her one night, seems swayed by Jannoula’s charm, and is integrated back into castle life like it was nothing.
  • Seraphina is given the translation from the book that was passed to Ingar while he was recovering. It’s the testament of the heretic saint. Her lover was the original anti-saint, Pandowdy. Her brother was Abastar, the saint who craved power and had him buried alive and others killed who disagreed with his doctrine. There’s also mention of Pandowdy defeating Abastar during a casting of the net by reflecting it back on him. Seraphina decides to attempt this with the few half-dragons she can seem to trust the next time they all cast it. If Jannoula is knocked out Camba can unhook the others from her mind.
  • But, before it happens, Jannoula takes her to breakfast with Kiggs and Glisselda, where she states that someone is in love with Seraphina, making Selda flee from the room looking sick, Kiggs following.
  • Jannoula takes Seraphina to the roof with them, which makes Phina suspicious, but not until she throws the powers into Neduard and Ingar does she learn that Jannoula was spying in Neduard’s head without him even knowing about it.
  • She reveals all the parts of the upcoming war to Seraphina, how she’s basically manipulated all the sides to her end, which she wants to be a bloody one where they all destroy each other.
  • Seraphina’s locked away in a tower, away from the fighting. The net is bringing down all dragons, good and bad, and there’s a battle on the back side that the humans are up against. Then, to make things worse, Orma shows up to visit her … and has no idea who she is. His memories have been erased. Seraphina is devastated by this.
  • That night the queen’s personal guard frees Seraphina and leads her to the queen, who helps her escape.  Before she does Glisselda kisses Seraphina, and we learn that the queen is in love with her.
  • She heads off to the shrine Abdo was hiding in, but he’s not there. She reads an inscription and realizes it’s about the anti-saint Pandowdy, and she wonders if he was buried nearby. It makes her think of the one half-dragon she’d had in her mind that she’d never met, also named Pandowdy, and wondered crazily if they could be the same. She sets off to find him. And does.
  • They talk. She asks him to help. He says he has but she hasn’t noticed. He won’t come and be the monster for her, or the peace maker, he says. She leaves, frustrated.
  • She opens a present from her friends, a mirror, and it gives her the idea to try and reflect the light back on Jannoula. Her plan requires her to run in between the fighting armies and wave a flag of peace, like a lunatic.
  • As she talked to representatives of all sides Jannoula appears on the tower and captivates all of them with her mind fire. Seraphina, thinking over everything, decides to break down the door in her garden to where she had put Jannoula, and steps through. It frees her mind fire. Suddenly she’s huge and can see it all, all the filaments that connect to Jannoula. She tries to fight, but weakens. But then Abdo joins his mind fire to hers. She then summons Pandowdy, who rises from the swamp. He takes Jannoula and severs all her ties.

That’s pretty much the end of the book. I know I basically did a summary, but so much stuff happened, and all of it was important! There were a few other important things that happen, including the epilogue, where she’s hanging out with Orma and he starts to want to figure things out. That gives me hope for his future.

The thing I liked about this book is that Seraphina’s path wasn’t predictable to me. I mean, yes, I knew she was going to try and find the other half-dragons, etc., but the way it pans out wasn’t at all what I expected. Things were not easy for our heroine for most of this book, but the way things happened had a fresh feel to me. And Jannoula, wow. She’s a really great villain. The end, where we really learn that it’s all been about payback for what happened, was really heart-wrenching (especially the stuff that happens with Orma). But at the end of the day she’s just a sad, broken person.

I’m really glad things work out for Seraphina and Kiggs, though I’m a bit sad about Glisselda not getting what she wants. But, then again, the end of the book is written rather ambiguously on this subject, and though we know for sure that Seraphina and Kiggs end up together, and that Glisselda and Kiggs get married but plan to keep it a friendship, we don’t actually know what happens with the two girls. What is clear is how close the three of them are, almost like a solid unit, and that’s enough.

This series was always meant to be two books, from my understanding, so this is probably the last we’ll see of these guys. I will admit that this makes me sad, because they are such wonderfully complex characters set in a rich world, but there’s so much wonderful stuff in the books that I’ll be able to return to them and enjoy them time and again.

So, I’m really curious. For those of you who have read SHADOW SCALE, did you enjoy it? Was it what you expected? Anything you want to know from the author? Be sure to post your questions in the comments today, I’m interviewing her tomorrow!

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