Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)
When I reviewed the first Seraphina book, I loved it so much I couldn't decide which reason for loving it to write about first. Unfortunately, for book two, I have the opposite problem.
There were two main reasons this book didn't work for me. In no special order:
In the first book, it was the dragons ("saar" -- a dragon in human form) that were the most interesting element of the story. They were such an fascinating, utterly foreign culture. In Shadow Scale, the saars were absent for literally half of the book -- the first 50% of the book was about the half-dragon Seraphina and her search for others like her. Even when they started showing up again in the second half, they still had very little screen time.
The driving force of this book was conflict with a villain. Unfortunately the character never for a moment worked for me. I did not believe she was ever a threat. I didn't believe the power she had could be used the way she used it. I did not believe how the entire world reacted to her. Basically she came off as a boogeyman to me, but the story characters treated her like the most powerful creature that ever walked the planet.
Unfortunately the story dragged so badly. While I flew through the first book, it felt like this one took months to read. (Though by the date on my previous review, it took "only" three weeks.)
There were a number of good elements to the story, but unfortunately they weren't enough to save it for me:
The quigutl: Lizard-like people. Their culture was amazingly interesting. I wish the whole book had been about them instead of just a couple chapters. I loved them to death -- I felt about them in this book as I had the saar in the first book. While I have no desire to reread this book, I'd happily reread their chapters over and over.
The writing: The technical writing, I mean. Rachel Hartman constructs very nice sentences, she's really clever with her wording, and has an enjoyable vocabulary.
(Edit: I forgot a good part. Spoilers for details about characters. [Tumblr will go crazy over this book.]One of the characters, a strong female character, was transsexual. I don't think I've read a YA book with a trans character before! And one of the main female characters was lesbian, which was quite cool as well.)
The ending of the book was the biggest letdown for me, though the epilogue was touching. In a world where every YA book seems to be part of a trilogy, it seems like this series might just be the two books.
As a final note: It's possible my expectations were so high that there's no way this book could have lived up to them. I loved the first book on a "Best book ever!" level. I know a number of people reading this are either looking forward to the second book or are intending to read the both of them; I hope that my review can reset expectations so you all are able to enjoy Shadow Scale more than I did.