Rachel Hartman Does It Again

It’s fitting that I’m launching my website at the same time that my friend, colleague, and client Rachel Hartman’s second book, Shadow Scale, is hitting the market, to reviews so rave they’re matched only by the reviews for Rachel’s first book, Seraphina.

With three starred reviews and counting, Shadow Scale was recently lauded by NPR Books. Find the full review here. For its clear-eyed assessment—and slightly gushy appreciation—of why Rachel’s work is noteworthy, it’s my favorite yet.

Here’s the line Random House will likely pull for the book’s blurb: “Shadow Scale is less a sequel than it is another stage of development; it outgrows Seraphina and sheds it like a skin.”

Clever. You can see how it will suit the paperback’s cover.

My personal choices are more specific and therefore less blurb-appropriate. But oh-so good!

Most of us who read Seraphina had this experience: “I fell deeply in love with [Seraphina] and have been pressing it into people’s hands and climbing rooftops to shout about it since.”

Yep. How about this one: “Without giving too much away, I want to say that this book’s villain is one of the most terrifying I’ve encountered…. So many fantasy villains are abstracts, absolutes against which the heroes strive, but the villain here felt jarringly, frighteningly real.”

Right on the money. But my absolute favorite is the acknowledgment of something that doesn’t often make it into a conventional review, which is Rachel’s skill in portraying a world that includes a variety of races, sexual orientations, and gender alignments in such a way that it seems just, well, normal. There are all sorts of different people doing all sorts of different things, and that’s ok. There’s nothing to get excited about.

If you’re one who cares about such issues, it’s enough to make you cry. Here’s the line from the review: “I also loved, with a passion verging on the desperate, the fact that this fantasy world contains people of color, trans characters, gay characters, and languages that acknowledge multiple genders…. Shadow Scale demonstrates that all these other ways of being are present and accounted for in the magnificent tapestry of its world.”

In the magnificent tapestry of our world, too. If you haven’t yet discovered Seraphina and Shadow Scale, I hope you will soon, and join the rest of us who feel for Rachel, and the beauty and joy in her work, a passion verging on the desperate.