Monday, February 19, 2018

ARC Review: Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Title: Tess of the Road
Written by: Rachel Hartman
Published: February 27, 2018 by Random House Books for Young Readers

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest opinion. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I loved the Seraphina series and I was so excited to jump back into this world and see more of Goredd and the larger world of this series. And while that aspect of the book was great, I didn't love the book as much as I expected.

I will say however that I did love the characters, especially the main character. I remember with the Seraphina series I loved the secondary characters but didn't totally love the main character. Here it was the other way around. Tess is an amazing main character. Unlike Seraphina, she was incredibly sympathetic. She had been through a lot in her life and it's definitely not all good. When we first meet her she's not really coping with it very well. As the book develops and we learn more about what happened, we watch Tess come to terms with it and move past her tragic past. It makes her a resilient and likeable character. There were a few secondary characters I did like, including Pathka. Pathka is Tess's best friend and a quigutl, which is basically a small dragon. And Pathka's daughter Kiriku was also really interesting. In case you are wondering, you do get to check back in with Seraphina and a few other characters from that series. If I had read it more recently I may have remembered a few more.

I also really loved the world of this series. In Tess of the Road it will come as no surprise that you get to see more of the world as Tess takes us on the road. A lot of the book is spent in other kingdoms including Samsam and Ninys. I loved being able to see those kingdoms and interact with their citizens. And while the religious aspect of the book was as important as it was in the two previous books it is still a part of it. We even get to see more religious orders and more of their practitioners. I really love that about this series. It makes it feel more like an old school fantasy or even like historical fiction for that reason.

But we can't walk about the world of this book without talking about dragons. In this book it wasn't about the traditional dragons or even half dragons like in the first two books. Here we have the quigutl. They are such interesting creatures. They are sort of like small and spiky dragons. But they also have their own language, culture, and behaviors. I really loved learning about them and seeing them interactions with each other and the larger world. There is more to it than that, more fantasy creatures than that, but I don't want to give too much away. It was a great addition to the world and really expanded things in a complex and interesting way.

My biggest frustration with this book however was with the plot. I'm a big plot driven reader so having a good plot is very important to me. I was expecting a book with some mystery and adventure, but I got very little of both. This book was much more of a travel story, which as you may know if you are a longtime follower of this blog isn't something that I ever really enjoy. To me a travel story isn't enough of a plot, it's a means to an end not an actual story. Luckily there was more to it than that  though. This was much more of a character-driven story which actually pretty interesting but I still kind of wanted more. I think perhaps because this was a long book. It took kind of a long time for me to get into the book and as the book developed I wasn't as hooked as I hoped. I think that the plot here just wasn't my kind of thing. But I still enjoyed it.

On the whole this was an interesting and unique Young Adult Fantasy. It had a fascinating world full of fantastical creatures and likable and complex characters with engaging develop. I just think the plot wasn't what I was hoping for and it just didn't blow me away.

I give Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you liked Seraphina then you should definitely check this book out. It's a good return to the world that you fell for in this series. But even if you haven't read that series and you are looking for a fantasy travel adventure pick this up.

Have you read Tess of the Road? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. That cover is something amazing! Even if I didn't like the sound of the book I would definitely think of buying it just for the cover. Wow!

  2. I felt much the same way you did about this. I loved Tess, but the story itself didn't hold much interest for me.

    BUT, the cover is gorgeous.