Shadow Scale: Q&A with Rachel Hartman + Giveaway

March 16, 2015 2015, fantasy, giveaway, Rachel Hartman, Wendy 58

shadow scale

We only need to tell you one thing about Rachel Hartman’s books and it should pretty much tell you whether you’d be interested in it.



Are you stampeding to the bookstore? Or are you overly cautious and need further persuading? Here, have a look at Kim’s rave review of Shadow Scale, the second book in the author’s Seraphina duology. Both she and K. have praised the world-building, characters, and romance in this series–as well as the spectacular craftsmanship of the writing.

Hartman’s words are exquisite. Her imagination is expansive. Her world is detailed and fascinating. She has created laws, and religion, and a history. She has built architecture, painted landscapes, and constructed streets and alleyways. She has peopled her world with characters of different shades — from rebels to teachers, musicians to politicians, royalty, knights, outcasts and lovers.

~ K.’s Seraphina review

Kim also asked Rachel Hartman a series of questions about the series which will a. persuade you to read the books immediately or b. make existing fans hop a little bit in excitement, because there are wonderfully spoilery answers to romance questions as well as news about the author’s upcoming books. We also have a giveway for two books at the end, so stick around!



divider vine croppedQ & A with Rachel Hartman

TMG: Seraphina is an endearing, sometimes prickly, always lovable, and dryly funny character. How did you conceive of her? Is she a lot like you? And do you have a special favorite (I confess to an inordinate fondness for Orma!)?

RH: She’s like me and not like me, which I guess is to be expected. We both love music and we share a sense of humour, but she’s much more cautious and, well, prickly than I am. I giggle more than prickle, and I always have. I think her personality comes out of her position in the world, however, and that if I had to be that cautious about revealing my secrets, I’d probably be stiffer and more reserved as well.

As for a favourite character, Orma is right up there. I suspect that’s why he appeals to so many readers, because I love him dearly and that affection comes through.

TMG: The first book is entirely located in Goredd, while this volume is largely in all of the surrounding countries. I loved getting out and exploring the larger world of this universe! How did you develop the world of Seraphina? Have the history and character of Samsam, Ninys, Porphyry, and the Tanamoot always been there or have you been building as you go?

RH: Goredd has been with me since I was eleven, but the others countries came much later. During my comic-book days, before I started writing prose novels, I developed a pretty good idea of Porphyry (which was loosely inspired by the Swahili coastal traders of East Africa and by the classical seafaring cultures of the Mediterranean, especially Greece), but it wasn’t really until this book that I had to sit down and work out what made Ninys and Samsam different from each other. I did a small amount of that in Seraphina, mostly giving them different outfits, but for Shadow Scale I really had to make it concrete. Luckily, I really enjoy that kind of work.

TMG: What was your favorite scene to write in Shadow Scale? Which was the most difficult?

RH: I think I had the most fun writing the quigutl scenes in this book. Those beasties kept surprising me. The most difficult part to write was the chapter detailing Seraphina’s history with Jannoula. I had to rewrite it many times, and I was revising it right up to the bitter end. It took a lot to get the tone and pacing of it exactly right.

TMG: Jannoula is one of the most horrifying villains I’ve encountered. I love that her terror is inspired not by violence or the usual villainous deeds, but by her ability to invade minds and take control of others. At the same time, it’s extra frightening because you have made her a character to legitimately sympathize. Why did you choose this particularly nuanced villain as Phina’s final foil?

RH: I’m so pleased people are finding her horrifying! Just inappropriately tickled by this fact. It took a long time to get her right. I always knew what I wanted her to be, but when it came to writing her, I kept pulling my punches, softening her inadvertently because she creeped me out. I needed her to be nuanced because I find pure evil, blunt-instrument villains kind of boring. To me, the scariest evil is an evil that you recognize as lurking in the depths of your own heart, something that makes you say, “I could have been like that, under other circumstances.” Jannoula wants many of the same things Seraphina wants, but she wants them for awful reasons, which leads Seraphina to question herself. So not only does Jannoula literally get into people’s heads, she gets into Seraphina’s figuratively as well by cultivating these kinds of doubts.

seraphina paperbackTMG: There is a distinct philosophical thread that runs through both books (I love that Seraphina and Kiggs bond through philosophical discussion). In Seraphina, she states “We were all monsters and bastards, and we were all beautiful.” What influenced you to take this tack with the story?

RH: I really enjoy philosophy, is probably the simplest answer. It is, to me, our interface for interacting with the world; we don’t see things as they are, but through interpretive lenses of our own devising. I’m also an experimentalist, through and through, and there’s nothing more interesting to me than watching characters (or groups, or whole societies) ride a philosophical train to the very end of the rails — or realize at some point that they have to jump off.

TMG: This book is packed with diversity; we have POC characters, a trans character, and queer representation as well, yet it never feels artificial or forced (more books should be like this!). I think it’s probably safe to say it was important to you to make this book diverse; why? And how did you strike such an organic balance?

RH: I’m glad you found it organic and balanced; I’m a bit too close to have much perspective on that. Diversity is very important to me, and I honestly don’t see how one could populate an imaginary world without it. My plant-pathologist father taught me long ago that monocropping (the agricultural practice of growing only one variety of plant) makes your whole farm more vulnerable to insects or disease; ecosystems are more robust and flexible when they are diverse. The same goes for cultures and societies and beliefs. We need everybody, and this is an idea (a philosophy, if you will) that is tested and stretched throughout the book. What about people who offend us? People who hurt us? Is there a limit to what kinds of difference can be tolerated? And – most interesting to me – is difference real or an illusion? I don’t answer all these questions, but I buzz around them like a bee.

TMG: I am absolutely fascinated by the “love triangle” in this series. It’s less of a triangle between Seraphina, Kiggs, and Glisselda as it is a triangle between Seraphina, Kiggs, and Duty/Obligation. It’s a rather unique (and welcome) take on an often tired trope. Why did you decide to take this angle/conflict with the romantic element of the story?

RH: Would you believe, I’d never considered it in quite those terms! He really does have quite the romance going on with Duty, you’re right. I was trying to create a romance that moved me, personally. I am embarrassingly picky about romance, and I suspect it’s because I overthink everything. So here I’ve made this pair who overthink everything, too. Usually in romance, the thinky-thinker has to learn to relax and stop thinking so much, but I don’t like that answer either. Thinking isn’t a liability in love. For some of us, thinking is the turn-on.

TMG: This next question and answer is a big spoiler, so click on this only after you’ve read the book. WE MEAN IT. View Spoiler »

TMG: What’s next for you book-wise? I heard a rumor that we’ll have more books set in the same world as Seraphina. Is it true? Will we see a little more of Seraphina, Kiggs, and Glisselda in the future? I’m just not ready to let go of them yet!

RH: Yes indeed! I’ve got another duology in the works, and the main character this time is one of Seraphina’s half-sisters. You’ll see a little more of Seraphina, Kiggs, and Glisselda — heck, you might see just about anybody. If they’re alive, they might show up, and if they don’t show up in these next two books, don’t imagine they’ve missed their chance. I have ideas for Abdo, Lars, Brisi, you name it. I’m not the world’s fastest writer, but I’ll get there eventually, I promise.

divider vine croppedWin a copy of Shadow Scale!

Thanks to our wonderful friends at Random House, we have two copies of Rachel Hartman’s newest book to give away. All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re excited about reading this book. And yes, BECAUSE DRAGONS is the obvious answer, but c’mon, play with us!

Open to US/Canadian residents aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. See entry form for complete details.  Good luck!

Shadow Scale and Seraphina are both available online and in stores now. Advance copies were provided by the publisher for review and this giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


divider vine cropped

I loved Rachel’s answers to these questions, and it’s made me determined to finish the first book asap! I’m in the middle of it now and am quite excited about seeing Seraphina grow into her own identity, as well as to see the non-traditional way the romance unfolds. I’ll post reviews to GoodReads as I finish both books, though it might take a bit with the craziness that my life has become offline.

Are you a fan of this series, or are you excited to start it?

Wendy signature teal




58 Responses to “Shadow Scale: Q&A with Rachel Hartman + Giveaway”

  1. Melinda Christensen

    I love this website because you all give very insightful reviews. This is how I find my next good read. I would love to win a copy of this book to share with grand children. thank you!

  2. Emily L

    I I haven’ read a good book about dragons in ages! This one sounds so interesting, would love to get to read it.

  3. Rebecca Ross

    Seraphina was one of those books I felt lost for days after reading. Definitely one of my top favorite reads, and I always love learning more about authors (especially Rachel!). And your blog is lovely. Thanks for sharing!
    Rebecca Ross recently posted…Photo

  4. Cordelia

    I read seraphina a few years ago and absolutely loved everything about it!

  5. Summer

    This author’s intelligence makes me want to read these books even more than the dragons do, particularly where she said that thinking is a turn on, so true, and so the characters I want to read about in a romantic storyline.

  6. Carina Olsen

    Sigh, the love. <3 Gooorgeous post Wendy :D And awesome interview with Rachel, Kim :D You are all amazing. <3 Sigh. I love these books SO MUCH. And this interview is all kinds of gorgeous :D I love it! Thank you so much for sharing. Sigh. I love it. Everyone needs to read these perfect books :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Cover Reveal: Winter by Marissa Meyer

    • Wendy Darling

      Kim did a great job with the interview questions, didn’t she? And Rachel’s answers were fantastic. I am sometimes SO annoyed when we spend the time to read/review/think of thoughtful, interesting questions and then an author just throws the answers over the fence. Certainly not the case here, these were so thoughtful and interesting. They make me even more excited to finished SERAPHINA and to read SHADOW SCALE.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

      • Carina Olsen

        That she did :D And omg, yes. So many author interviews have silly and short answers that doesn’t seem personal at all :\ But not Rachel. She answers amazingly :D And this interview, yeah, all kinds of awesome. <3 And yess! You need to read these books Wendy :D They are AWESOME! And I think you would love them a whole lot. <3
        Carina Olsen recently posted…Cover Reveal: Winter by Marissa Meyer

  7. looloolooweez

    I am BEYOND excited for Shadow Scale. I loved Seraphina — it was the first new hardback I bought myself last year when I got enough of a pay bump to make buying new hardbacks an actual option again. Super happy that it is finally available!
    looloolooweez recently posted…Ook

  8. Alexa S.

    Shadow Scale was great! I loved seeing how Hartman continued the story in this final part of the duology, and I can’t wait to have my own copy :)
    Alexa S. recently posted…There Be Dragons

    • Wendy Darling

      I hope your copy arrives soon, Alexa! It’s a beautiful book, I love what the publisher has done with the illustrations and such for both. They feel worthy of the stories inside.

  9. Emma A

    Seraphina was beautifully written, it was entertaining to have to look up words in the dictionary while reading it :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Ahhh, that’s what K. said in her review of SERAPHINA! (Linked above.) She said she looked up some words thinking they were made up and found they were real, and looked up others sure they were real but found they were imaginary. The mark of a writer with a sure grasp on how to play with language.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

  10. Alicia

    I’m obsessed with dragons, so obviously I’ll read anything with them in it.

  11. myriam

    LOVE the interview. You have so many good points here, especially Kiggs and duty, and Rachel has such great answers — thinking is attractive. I think that’s why I love the Seraphina/Kiggs pairing so much. And SQUEEE for a book about Seraphina’s half-sister!

    • Wendy Darling

      Thinking is the most attractive thing of all! So much hinges upon intelligence–humor, reasoning, ability to act, etc. Relationships are so much more fun when you’re with someone who is your match intellectually.

      I loved her answers, too. SO awesome that there’s going to be a spinoff duology. :D
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

  12. J. Oh

    I definitely want to come back and devour this post–but “spoilery” scared me off, as Seraphina is one of my favorite books and Shadow Scale my second-most anticipated read of 2015. I have it on hold from the library, so I’ll come back and enjoy Hartman’s answers once I finish it :) Hooray! Seriously, I am in love with Hartman’s prose.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh no, don’t worry! We hid the spoilery part in spoiler tags, so if you don’t click on that part, you’ll be fine! What do you take us for?! ;) I understand being cautious, though, I refuse to read anything about certain books/authors before I’ve read or reviewed myself, too.

      I’m so glad you have this to look forward to. Enjoy, enjoy.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

  13. Sabrina

    I’m excited to read Shadow Scale because I’ve been waiting for it to come out FOREVER. I was so sucked in when I read Seraphina, and I can’t wait to see where the story goes next.

  14. Pei

    I had the fortune to come across this book just last year and I’m super psyched to hear about the sequel. Having been loaded with homework as an IB student, I’m just now getting back into my reading game starting with Red Queen and Shadow Scale. The interview, the dragons, the writing–urgh what’s not to love?

    • Wendy Darling

      I hope you enjoyed your time off, Pili! SHADOW SCALE is huuggge, definitely a book to take your time with. I’m curious to see what everyone thinks of the spoiler. I guessed what it was after having cryptic conversations with Kim about what bloggers were so worked up about, and I, for one, am very excited about it.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

  15. Cari S.

    I have always loved dragons and have been waiting for Shadow Scale for a long time now. Seraphina was one of the first books I read that really got me hooked on reading again. I can’t wait to find out what happens.

  16. LeeAnn

    Just finished this book and absolutely loved it. I love the detail and effort that Rachel Hartman puts into her characters and her world. She is truly talented and her books stand out in a genre where all books are starting to seem the same to me.

    This book is so different than Seraphina but in a good way. I can’t wait to see what else she has to offer!

    • Wendy Darling

      The world building is intense–definitely a book to be savored and not rushed through! And I totally agree, her books feel uniquely her own world, in a marketplace that is crowded with cookie cutter plots and characters. This is an author with something to say, and armored with great style besides.

      Sounds like there’s more in this dragon world waiting! I’m glad she’s taking her time with her books; the pressure to deliver on the usual publisher deadline is probably intense, but the writing is all the better for not being rushed.

  17. Jocelyne T

    I read Seraphina in 2012 and thoroughly enjoyed it because the idea of dragons disguised as humans and all the politics was so interesting! I loved how Rachel Hartman incorporated diversity as a major theme in Seraphina (on Twitter, I know she often promotes diversity in YA). I am looking forward to Shadow Scale, though I should reread Seraphina as a refresher first!

    • Wendy Darling

      Dragon politics, heeeee! I like how naturally and organically diversity is included in her book(s), unlike some where it feels force-fed to you or like token representation. It’s very well thought out, but also just a fact of life.

      I hope you enjoy SS just as much as SERAPHINA!
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

    • Wendy Darling

      That bit in the spoiler was actually what made me even MORE excited about reading the series! And yes, how cool that fans will get to see more of this world that Rachel has built. I like the way this is done, actually–two duologies that are interconnected, so you get to build more on what’s already there, but so that each character’s major story arc is completed. I’m sure it’s going to feel emotionally satisfying in a way that sometimes trilogies or extended series do not.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, I’m glad the interview whetted your appetite! I hope you enjoy SHADOW SCALE just as much as you did the first book.

      And yeah, diversity has been a big “thing” in the past couple of years, but many authors have been quietly writing these characters and including these themes for a long time. It’s heartening when it’s just incorporated into the story as a simple fact of life.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

    • Wendy Darling

      Fantasy is hit or miss for me, too! I’m in the middle of this one myself and am excited about all the dragonry. :D I hope you get a chance to read it yourself soon.

    • Wendy Darling

      Secret: we get pitched a lot of interviews and features, and I only say yes if I am pretty sure the content is going to be interesting. I’ve known Rachel from GoodReads for a few years, and I’ve always known her to be just what you’ve said, a thoughtful, interesting reader and writer. It really does show in both her books and her interview. :)
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway