Shadow Scale picks up a few months after Seraphina left off, and finds Seraphina setting off on a quest to unite the half-dragons or ityasaari she is aware of in order to create a weapon which may be useful to Goredd in fighting dragons. Seraphina also hopes to have a homecoming of sorts, and secretly wishes for a family of outcasts form. As Seraphina and her travelling companions (most notably the young and buoyant half-dragon Abdo) search the countryside for the ityasaari, worlds complete with religions and cultures fully drawn unfold invitingly, and hopefully other books will revisit these in the future. Each half-dragon holds a place in Seraphina’s mind’s garden, but unfortunately Jannoula, the most wily and needy of the ityasaari she’s in contact with, is racing to unite the group as well; for greedy, controlling, and nefarious purposes. Seraphina believes that the defenses she’s built up in her minds’ garden are the only reason she is able to resist, but those same defenses may also leave her powerless to help her friends when it counts most.
The strengths of this book are in the characterizations and world building. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rachel Hartmann eventually had quite a number of books that weren’t exactly sequels but shared worlds and characters now and then, much like Madeline L’Engle’s books do. Fantasy readers who like involved and detailed narratives are sure to enjoy this latest volume in what is billed as a duet. Advanced upper elementary readers could probably handle it, but it is best suited for middle or high school readers or adults.