Source: DRC via NetGalley (Random House Children’s/Random House Books for Young Readers)
Pub. Date: Feb 1, 2022
Why did I choose to read this book?
Four years ago I read Tess of the Road, a follow up to Hartman’s Seraphina and Shadow Scale books. TotR is one of those books that I would just shove in anyone’s face, unable to explain why I loved it and imploring you to just TRUST ME and read it. I do recommend reading Seraphina if you haven’t already, because it gives a better idea of the politics and religions that govern this universe. But the reason I chose to read In the Serpent’s Wake (a.k.a. Tess of the Sea) is because I loved Tess of the Road so much, I had to see what happened next.
What is notable about the story?
Tess of the Road was all about addressing Tess’ trauma and allowing her to come to terms with her past and face her present as a whole woman (again, she’s like 16, but you can read this as if she’s older because her age hardly ever comes up). Tess of the Sea (I’m sorry, this should have been the title) shows us Tess facing injustices that are done to the people and creatures of the world and how different people from different walks of life navigate those injustices. Whose motives are best? When is the answer no answer at all? Tess is growing out of herself and into a knowledge of the world (politics/religion/dedication/ethics) that is moving around her, and possibly finding her place in all the chaos. I love that these books truly mirror how an older teen might need to consume their environments in order to define themselves and what they believe in. Hartman’s writing lays out this emotional and intellectual journey flawlessly.
Was anything not so great?
My main complaint with this series is that there is SO MUCH TIME between books. Tess of the Road came out FOUR YEARS AGO. Was I passionate and excited about that book? Absolutely. Do I remember the specifics of what was going on in it? I did not. There is a cute little poem at the beginning of In the Serpent’s Wake that tries to catch you up on what happened, but it just wasn’t enough. I had to rely on my terrible memory and context clues to catch up as I read. This series already had the hang up that you couldn’t really read Tess of the Road without at least reading Seraphina, and I fear that this book suffers doubly for the dire need of character and world context. This is not a series you can just jump into, which is a shame because everything about each book is so good.
What’s the verdict?
I went with 4 stars on Goodreads because of the issues discussed above. It’s still an exemplary story that you should consider adding to your TBR, just know that you might want to read the other books that preceded it first before you dive in.
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