Book: Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Release Date: February 27th 2018
Tags: Young Adult / Fantasy / Dragons / Coming of Age / Trigger Warning: Rape / Trigger Warning: Suicide
Rating: 4,5 stars out of 5 stars
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this arc in exchange for an honest review.
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.
Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl–a subspecies of dragon–who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.
Ever since I first heard that Rachel Hartman would write another book set in the world of her Serpahina duology I knew I had to read that. I was in for a long wait but finally this book will be published in 2018. When I saw it on Netgalley I didn’t know how hard to click on request even if I doubted I would be accepted. But I was, super lucky to have been able to read this already in 2017.
As this was a book that I had been waiting on for a long time I obviously had a lot of expectations and ideas going in. I can honestly say that this book was so different from what I was expecting. But it also honestly was not a bad thing. Maybe it was even better.
Tess of the Road is a sort of coming of age story set in a high fantasy world. Tess sets out on a trip and finds many things along the way. Mostly herself. There are a lot of heavy topics being dealt with in this book. Suicide, death, grief, rape, victim blaming and so on. From my perspective these were all dealt with well but I will keep a lookout on other reviews to see what others have to say. It was heart wrenching at moments. One thing that did bother me a little was that there was another word used for homosexuals. I understand that this is a high fantasy and that a lot of other language and slang is used but even so I don’t think it should have been done with this. But again that is just how it made me, a white straight female, feel. I can’t speak for anyone else on this front.
Tess herself was a gem to follow. Rachel Hartman knows so well how to write flawed characters. She has crafted this gorgeous tale of Tess who has made mistakes and in parts almost hates herself. And she is a brat sometimes, I admit. She even borders onto the unlikeable main character. But she also made me laugh. She certainly wasn’t stupid.
It was great to set foot into this world again through the eyes of someone else than Seraphina. There certainly were less dragons in the story than I had expected there to be. And speaking of the world, I feel that the book really does bank a lot on us knowing the world of Seraphina. As one who loves this world even I had trouble remembering some of the things of the world. I don’t think everything was explained again very well. There was also a bit of referencing towards Seraphina’s tale as this is set a few years behind it. I really feel that you need to have read the Seraphina duology to be able to catch everything in this book and properly understand.
Of course Seraphina appeared in this book, being the half sister to our main character. I loved seeing her again. It was interesting to see her again through the eyes of Tess who looks at her much more hostile and different than I did. It was insightful.
I also felt that ending was working its way into this being more than a standalone. Can we please get more? How it ended feels like a next book would have a very interesting dynamic of characters. And obviously Tess has some unresolved issues with her twin sister.