Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

book cover
Tess of the Road
by Rachel Hartman

ISBN-13: 9781101931288
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Random House Children's
Released: Feb. 27, 2018

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can't make a drunken scene at your sister's wedding, nearly destroy her marriage before it starts, break a relative's nose and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess desperately sets out on a journey across the Southlands, 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's tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she's tried to forget threaten to destroy her.

My Review:
Tess of the Road is a YA philosophical fantasy. It's not humorous. It's set in the same world as the author's previous novels and involved characters from those novels. The world-building depended largely on calling common fantasy elements by weird names, though the quigutl were unique. Also, the author assumed the reader had read the previous novels so didn't bother to give much background on things and events described in those books. Unfortunately, I haven't read those books.

Tess was curious about sex even as a child, and reading novels inspired her to want romantic love. Bad decisions, naivety, and romantic ideas led to her "ruin" (though that was not her intent), and she's no longer allowed to marry. She's utterly miserable and determined to stay miserable. She finally runs away and takes on a male identity (or two). Still, she considers suicide to end the pain. Then she comes across an old friend with a quest. Her new traveling companion is a dragon-like creature that was female when Tess first met her but is now male. He has an ongoing guilt/hate relationship with his daughter from a rape.

Tess describes her journey as "I’m just walking the road, looking for reasons to keep walking" and feels that "It matters less where you go than that you keep moving." Her mother's religion is very harsh and Tess had "never seen any divine plan, unless the plan was to saddle her with guilt and self-loathing." However, when her companion's quest leads to an awe-inspiring religious moment, she feels like "nothing." "For someone who was nothing, anything was possible. The pressure was off" and "She had permission to let her body do and be and have what it wanted." Which, apparently, is sex. But actions still have consequences. Anyway, this book ended with Tess starting a more traditional fantasy adventure.

The sex scenes were described in vague terms (rather than graphically). There was occasional use of bad language.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

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