New Release 2-27-2018
The third book in Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina collection, Seraphina’s younger half sister Tess (of the pair of twins) is the center of this tale. Tess of the Road was provided as an ARC by Random House for Young Readers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’m not sure why I skipped over the second book of the collection. I vaguely remember that I took Shadow Scale out of the library and then had to take it back because someone else had it on hold, or maybe it was because it was 2309483570922 pages, but either way I can say with certainty that you should read Seraphina first, but you could pick up Tess of the Road or Shadow Scale next and you wouldn’t miss a beat.
While her two previous novels were hefty tomes full of detail and world-building, Hartman changes pace with Tess of the Road and has created a triumph of feminism in a medieval setting. From teenage pregnancy to rape, arranged marriage to vocations, family relations to religion – Tess of the Road shows that girls and women can buck the system and they will always find someone who will support them no matter where they go.
One of the few drawbacks of the story is that Tess is only 16 when the book begins, but it is mentioned so rarely and so many of the themes are very adult, that you can read the book as though you are reading about a young adult in her early twenties and never notice the difference.
The major plot here involves World Serpents, creatures older and larger than the dragons, and the novel continues the storyline of the saar (dragonkind), quigutl (lizard-type creatures), and humans and the politics, religion, and saints that surround them all. Tess meets up with her childhood friend Pathka, a quigutl who is on a mission to discover Anassussia, a World Serpent of legend who has called to him in his dreams. This quest is the umbrella over all of the feminist themes that Tess tackles on her journey to discovering herself and all she is capable of.
Again, you will want to at least read Seraphina first so you have an idea about this world and the players in it, but I would wholeheartedly recommend Tess of the Road, especially if you know a headstrong young woman who might be in need of inspiration and encouragement in the midst of a world that is just beginning to accept loud, brash, strong women as normal.