Series: Tess of the Road #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on February 27, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Romantic, Young Adult
Sexual Content: Implied sex scenes, rape
Reviewed by: Kate
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.
TESS OF THE ROAD is a return to the world of Rachel Hartman's previous books, SERAPHINA and SHADOW SCALE, two books I absolutely loved. With the combo of the beautiful cover art, and the promise of more like SERAPHINA, I dove right in to TESS OF THE ROAD. All in all, however, I'm not sure it stands up to Hartman's previous work, and I was a bit disappointed.
I have a few complaints about TESS OF THE ROAD. The first is that without any context, the world-building is nearly non-existent. I think the author is taking for granted that readers will have read her previous books, despite the fact that TESS is a new series. It felt very light on the explanation for some different aspects of the world, and I was confused at times, even with the background of having read SERAPHINA.
My second complaint is that the book doesn't feel like anything happens. Now, there are plenty of books where I don't feel like a lot happens and it's very compelling reading, but here it just feels like Tess is dropped into situation after situation with not much of a common thread between them. It gets a little slow at times, and after all of it, I also don't feel like Tess has grown much at all.
Still, Hartman has a way with characters that really shines in this book. Since the plot somewhat takes a backseat, the characters are really what kept me reading. The characters, even those who are only in the book for a chapter or two, tend toward the multi-faceted and interesting, especially Tess. She has a lot of aspects to her personality that the reader discovers as the book moves along. My feelings toward her definitely changed throughout her journey, as we're treated to flashbacks that explain how she got to where she is.
If you're going to pick up TESS OF THE ROAD, I definitely recommend SERAPHINA and SHADOW SCALE, as they're both really enjoyable books and will give you background for this one. If not, just be warned that you might be a little lost at first, until you get into the world. It wasn't always an easy read, but TESS is definitely an interesting one, and really shows how you view something can change. For that, I felt it was a worthwhile read.Series Titles:
- Tess of the Road