Book Quibbles: Tess of the Road

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.

I received this advanced reader copy from last month’s Fanmail Crate.

This is a spin-off of Seraphina. Set in the same world but this time it’s centered around her half-sister, Tess. I didn’t remember much about her or her twin sister Jeanne, only that Seraphina’s relationship with them is pretty non-existent.

That being said I don’t think you need to read Seraphina or the sequel to read this one. Sure there are spoilers from those books, nothing too big, and customs/people/places will be more recognizable but any information you need is given.

Premise

Since a young age Tess didn’t see anything wrong with exploring the world. An “ahead of her times” type girl, Tess went through some dark times and is now dealing with the aftermath. As her sister is getting married, Tess is also realizing the future she’ll have as her family plans to send her to a convent. After a mess is caused at her sister’s wedding Tess takes it upon herself to write a new ending to her story.

Along with her dragon-friend Pathka, Tess takes to the road in search of not only a mythical creature but herself.

Tess and her Past

A lot holds Tess back before she realizes it’s time to leave. Tess’s mother is awful, one of my least favorite characters. I remembered her a bit from Seraphina but this is the book that presents her front and center. Jeanne, as much as Tess loves her, holds Tess back. Tess has to be there for her through everything. Jeanne is more delicate than a butterfly.

Then there’s her father and Seraphina, two people Tess just doesn’t get along with. I can tell from the beginning Seraphina wanted to have a relationship with Tess but man, Tess’s dislike for Seraphina takes up part of the beginning. If you don’t like Seraphina as a character, Tess doesn’t help.

Pathka is the quigutl, a species of dragon, whom Tess became friends with at a young age after helping Pathka give birth. Tess even learned to speak their language. Whether you want to call it fate or a coincidence, the two reunite just as they’re ready to hit the road.

I won’t say any more about Tess’s past relationships. It’s rough, to say lightly. Tess’s past is dark and I’ll give this book that: it doesn’t shy away from the darkness.

Tess and Long Road

I’ll be honest and say it took me a while to get into the story. It didn’t help the beginning kind of annoyed me as Tess dealt with her family and the shame they still have from what Tess did years before. Even Tess taking her emotions out on others didn’t make this a good start.

But even after Tess left I wasn’t sure where the story planned to go. Yes they are looking for a mythical creature, something I actually didn’t believe in at first, but I wasn’t sure of anything else.

But I didn’t want this to be a book I started and didn’t finish and surprisingly I started to like more parts. As Tess began to change and more of her past became present I grew to like her as well. She and Pathka go through a lot together and find ways to keep each other safe. They have their rough moments but the foundation that keeps them together comes through.

As you may suspect Tess meets and array of people and visits places she only dreamed of. She goes by different names and becomes different people to get by. At first she tries stealing but realizes hard-work will help her survive. She becomes part of a road crew for a good amount of time and I actually enjoyed her interactions with them.

The Long, Dwindling Road 

Some parts did drag on a bit, for me. I understand this is a story about finding yourself but did Tess take extra time to do that. I liked a lot of things she went through, learning to understand others and not judge like her mother taught her, but some of them I wanted to end. I won’t get into specifics but one involves two men she comes across as she tries to help an older man.

Overall

As I read reviews I’m surprised to find how much I like this compared to others. Like I said it takes a while to get into the story and you may not get into it all. It just depends on how much action you like in a story and if you like them to character driven. I think liking Tess falls on that and I actually do. She’s been through shit and is open to the world. Even during her rough patches I could see there’s another part wanting to come out that her family is holding in.

Disclaimer: I said this book is dark and it is. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory but there is talk of rape and assault, just being a few to mention.

I liked this book more than I expected to when I read the first chapter. Not all of Tess’s journey is that action-packed or interesting but there are parts that pick up the story and bring some lighter moments in. It all falls on what you personally like in a story. And I personally like someone who can truly change while on their journey, or in this case, the road.

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Rachel Hartman

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