Tess of the Road

Tess of the Road

Book - 2018 | First edition.
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Award-winning Rachel Hartman's newest YA is a tour de force and an exquisite fantasy for the #metoo movement.

"Tess of the Road is astonishing and perfect. It's the most compassionate book I've read since George Eliot's Middlemarch." -- NPR

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons can be whomever they choose. Tess is none of these things. Tess is. . . different. She speaks out of turn, has wild ideas, and can't seem to keep out of trouble. Then Tess goes too far. What she's done is so disgraceful, she can't even allow herself to think of it. Unfortunately, the past cannot be ignored. So Tess's family decide the only path for her is a nunnery.

But on the day she is to join the nuns, Tess chooses a different path for herself. She cuts her hair, pulls on her boots, and sets out on a journey. She's not running away, she's running towards something. What that something is, she doesn't know. Tess just knows that the open road is a map to somewhere else--a life where she might belong.

Returning to the spellbinding world of the Southlands she created in the award-winning, New York Times bestselling novel Seraphina, Rachel Hartman explores self-reliance and redemption in this wholly original fantasy.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR * BOSTON GLOBE * The Chicago Public Library * KIRKUS REVIEWS

Four starred reviews!

"The world building is gorgeous, the creatures are vivid and Hartman is a masterful storyteller. Pick up this novel, and savor every page." -- Paste Magazine
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2018]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781101931288
1101931280
9781101931295
1101931299
Branch Call Number: Y Fic
Characteristics: 536 pages ; 22 cm

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bluejaybooks
May 26, 2019

This novel has a somewhat unusual, meandering structure that reminds me more of the structure of some classic novels than modern fiction. I found it and the character development absolutely gorgeous.

That said, if you're looking for a fast-paced adventure fantasy novel, this book is not for you. It takes tropes typically reserved for contemporary novels and applies them to a fantasy setting. It unfolds slowly, layer after layer. If you don't think this is something you'll have the patience for, then this likely isn't something you'll enjoy.

You also don't need to have read the Seraphina Duology to enjoy this book. I read those books so long ago that I could hardly remember what happened in them any more, but was still able to enjoy this story.

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mux168
Feb 05, 2019

Definitely a slower read than the Seraphina duology. However, I actually liked that it was slow because it's much more believable witnessing Tess' growth span the 500+ pages. It takes a long time for the mind to untangle a trauma, and Tess's story is very much rooted in the anger and shame she experiences from her abandonment by family and that a-hole, what's-his-face? At the end of the book, I felt like it set up some exciting possibilities for the next in this series, which I'm now looking forward to.

Chapel_Hill_MarthaW Jan 15, 2019

This was really slow going for me at times, but the parts that worked reeeeeeally worked. I think Hartman's books are always going to be a challenge for me because I basically think it's impossible for her to write something as fresh and inventive and feels-familiar-but-also-brand-new as Seraphina was, ever again, but this was such an interesting chance to revisit that world, particularly from the perspective of Tess, someone who doesn't view Seraphina in a terribly rosy light. Tess is a bit of a challenging protagonist (I'm trying to stop using the word "unlikable" to describe female protagonists, because I think it's sexist and code for a lot of stuff we ding women for that we are totally accepting of in male characters but anywaaaaaay) but watching her journey (both literal and metaphorical) over the course of this book is incredibly satisfying, and I'm really looking forward to book two. [But, as a disclaimer: some of the magical/dragon stuff in this gets incredibly dense, so... be warned. It might not be for everyone.]

JCLChrisK Nov 30, 2018

"She still held sorrows, but she was not made of them. Her life was not a tragedy.

"It was history, and it was hers."

Oh, I love the writing of Rachel Hartman and the world of Seraphina. This one is more personal than the two previous, and might just be my favorite.

The first entry in the Cast of Characters at the end of the book: "Tess Dombegh--the one most likely to get spanked."

Life can be hard. Tess has always found ways to make it even harder. And she has accepted that her life will be one of suffering, anger, and resentment. Then, at seventeen, she reaches a breaking point and decides (with the gentlest of nudges) to run away. And so she finds herself walking. As long as she doesn't stop moving, there's a chance she won't give in to despair. So she walks.

Of course, that is only the barest hint of Tess's story, for the road brings challenges and adventures. And the road brings opportunities to think, and process, and learn, and grow, and to begin to see everything she's know from new perspectives. Tess is less alone than she realizes. She discovers companionship; sometimes she creates companionship. She learns to hide and steal and flee; she learns to work and earn and share and give. She chases the legends of dragons. She discovers. She learns to stop running from her anguish. She learns to love.

This is exquisite storytelling.

So much love for the unlovable protagonist, Tess, and her strange journeys to find a World Serpent (a huge being living under the earth) with a scaly, gender-fluid companion, dressed as a boy. We empathized with her bad choices, and being a crappy friend, and just had all the feels for her as she changed and grew throughout the book. We never wanted it to end!

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GuyN
Jul 30, 2018

This, the final book of Hartman/s Seraphina trilogy, has some surprises in store for the fans of her series filled with half-dragons and dragons and most plotlines are wrapped up satisfactorily. Seraphina, first book in the series, is the place to start, of course, and is the best book of the three. Still, I confess to impatiently awaiting the appearance of this third volume and I wasn't at all disappointed.

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Principoo
Jul 28, 2018

Loved this book. Can’t wait for the next one to see what happens next. This book is different from the other dragon fantasies I’ve read and I really liked it

samcmar Jul 06, 2018

I should have read this book sooner. Seraphina is one of my favourite fantasy novels, and I was beyond thrilled to find out that Rachel Hartman finally had a new book coming out set int he same universe. I also haven't been reading as much fantasy lately, so it was so nice to pick this up and fly through it. Plus, this book has dragons, and dragons are A+ in my books.

This is a rich and character driven fantasy novel. Tess is a fantastic, snarky, lovable heroine and I loved being on this journey with her. I loved how sassy and take charge she is! And she wasn't even my favourite character! That crown goes to Pathka, who just made this book everything I wanted it to be and more. But in all seriousness, this book is about Tess' growth as a character, and it looks at her life in alternative perspectives in how she's grown and her connection with the dragons. Tess goes through some horrific things in her life, yet you cannot help but root for her.

Also some of the deaths in this book ruined me. RUINED ME. No spoilers, but they were so heartbreaking and I may have yelled at the book for it. I recognize the book cannot talk back to me (and if it did, it would tell me it's feeding on my tears).

I think for a lot of fantasy readers Tess of the Road might be too much of a slow burn. Personally, I love fantasy novels that gradually build to its climax. This book lacks a lot of the fantasy tropes that people love -- there's no complicated magic systems or intalove -- just a story about a girl out on the open on the road, forging a new path for herself. What's not to love?

kobrien3 May 15, 2018

Tess of the Road is one of my favourite YA reads of 2018. I love Rachel Hartman's other books (Seraphina and Shadowscale), and I'm a sucker for a book where a strong female character forges her own path in the world. The themes of this book are challenging, real, and relatable and I cannot recommend it enough! Tess may not be a very likeable character at first, but she is real, honest, and facing real world challenges that are not often portrayed in fantasy. Her journey towards self acceptance and healing is beautifully written and something I didn't know I needed to see in YA fantasy until it was in my hands. If fantasy is your thing, don't pass this one up!
Heads up: while this is a stand alone novel, it is in the same world as Seraphina and Shadowscale, so there are a few spoilers for those stories if you haven't read them yet!

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JCLChrisK Nov 30, 2018

I gave you two choices as a test: there are never just two choices. That is a lie to keep you from thinking too deeply.

JCLChrisK Nov 30, 2018

She still held sorrows, but she was not made of them. Her life was not a tragedy. It was a history, and it was hers.

JCLChrisK Nov 30, 2018

For a moment Tess imagined she didn't exist. It was surprisingly soothing.

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