Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Tess of the Road

2 Stars

Publisher: Random House Children’s, Random House Books for Young Readers

Date of publication: February 27th, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Where you can find Tess of the Road: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

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. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and 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 is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

Trigger Warning: death of a child, child abuse, talk of rape

My review:

When I saw Tess of the Road on NetGalley, I was captured by the cover. But I wasn’t going to request it. Then I read the blurb and went “Hmmm“. Dragons, a subspecies of dragons, half-dragons, and a great adventure. I thought “Why not, sounds like a good read“. Having read the book, I can say with absolute certainty that this book was a disappointment. It dragged while reading it. I couldn’t keep my head in the book. I was actually bored and came <this close> to DNFing. But I have a personal vow never to DNF a book, so I finished it.

Tess of the Road did have a promising plotline. Girl strikes out on her own with her quigutl companion. She is determined to find dragons that were lost. She has many adventures along the way before resolving her quest. It was everything else that happened in the book that ruined it for me. What I was expecting was dragons, women empowerment, and adventures. I wasn’t expecting teen pregnancy, rape, and child abuse to be discussed.

I felt awful for Tess. From the beginning of the book, she was abused by her mother. She did something wrong, she got beat with a wooden spoon or locked in a closet. Her mother was a very bitter, abusive religious nut. I was not expecting to read such vivid accounts of child abuse in a book like this. Her family puts the fun in dysfunctional. So I got it when Tess ran away. If I was put down, verbally and emotionally abuse as much as Tess was, I would have done the same thing. I wish that it was mentioned why she hated Tess so much.

I did like that the journey helped Tess come to terms with her abusive past and the loss of her child. While she did act childishly for most of the first half of the book, I felt that her change came when talking about her son’s birth and death. It was after that I saw her mature and own up to her past. That was one of my favorite parts of this book. Seeing Tess grow from a selfish girl-child to a woman who was ready to take acceptance for her past and forge a new future.

I thought Pathka and Kiku were fascinating. Their relationship was very complex. Pathka resented Kiku for being born. Kiku resented Pathka for being there for her. Kiku was disturbed and vowed to kill Pathka if she got the chance. The whole race of quigutl was interesting but the author didn’t spend much time on them. Other than to explain that Pathka and Kiku were able to dream separately from the others, which made them different. I do wish more was spent explaining the quigutl’s race and why they were living among humans. Or their connection to the World Dragons. Only the barest explanation was given.

I could not connect to any of the characters. While I felt awful for Tess, there wasn’t any connection. As there wasn’t anything with Pathka and Kiku. My disconnection with the characters made the book tedious to read.

The end of the book was very predictable. I did not like what they did to the World Dragon that Tess found. I could not wrap my mind around why the author chose that route. It baffled me.

I would recommend an Adult rating for Tess of the Road. There are some very adult themes in this book that wouldn’t be right for a teenager. There are sexual situations, language, and violence. There are several scenes of verbal and physical abuse of a child. One flashback to the death of an infant. There is also a flashback to a rape scene that I didn’t see coming. These are triggers for some people and I would recommend that if they trigger you, don’t read it.

This is not a book that I would recommend or would reread. The book itself was too long. There were several lags in the plotline that I almost couldn’t overcome. I got bored halfway through the book before I wanted to put it down and not finish it. Like I said above, I had to make myself read the book to the end. It was a relief when I realized I had read the last paragraph.

I would like to thank Random House Publishing Group, Random House Groups for Young Readers, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review Tess of the Road.

All opinions stated in this review of Tess of the Road are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

One thought on “Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

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