My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

ARC Review: Tess Of The Road by Rachel Hartman

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (from NetGalley:
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.

I haven't read the Seraphina series, by Rachel Hartman.  The beauty of Tess Of The Road, the engaging spinoff, is that one didn't need to have any prior knowledge of the other books.  To me, that is a sign of expert writing.  The book itself was so compelling that I now want to read everything Rachel Hartman has ever written!

What I Liked:
Tess is a very compelling person.  To avoid exposing themselves to a scandal,  Tess's family shields her from the repercussions of an out of wedlock pregnancy.  But the price for Tess is to be forever mistreated by her family.  At every opportunity she is told she is worthless, a whore, and ungrateful.  This leads Tess to have a drinking problem and more drama with her relatives.

What I loved about Tess is that she finally realizes she really can control her destiny.  Even with the social restraints of the time, she has options that can allow her to live her life on her own terms.

But she has many self-imposed weights on her soul.  With all the wrongs that have been done to her, the most important person she must learn to forgive is herself.

There are also many other richly drawn characters who Tess meets throughout her journey.  Pathka, a dragon-like creature called a quigutl, is a fully developed character with motivations and issues to solve.  Josquin, a man she meets towards the end of the story, is a person who makes peace with how his body is after a terrible accident.   While he often is proud and frustrated by his challenges, he also knows that all of his experiences, good and bad, make him the man his is now.

This novel really illustrates the saying, "The journey is the destination".  As Tess sets out on the road disguised as a boy, she encounters many people (and creatures) who enrich her understanding of life.  But if this comes across as a "feel good" kind of book, you may be mistaken.  Tess encounters both good and not so good people on the road.  She often needs to make some morally ambiguous choices, and has to live with those decisions.  

I'm certain that the novel, Tess of the D'Ubervilles, by Thomas Hardy,  must have been a huge influence for this book.  Aside from the fact that both have heroines with the name Tess, both stories deal with a young woman who has had a deep injustice done to her. I wanted to throw Tess of the D'Ubervilles out the window many times because it was so infuriating.  Of course, Tess of the D'Ubervilles was written by a man in 1891, a time where it would be inconceivable for a woman to have any say in her own life.  


The glory of this book is that it gives the character power to take control of her life.

I also think that even though this takes place in a magical, medieval land, the story is a universal one of a fall and a redemption.  Tess could have easily been a modern middle-school girl who gets a "reputation" that wrecks havoc on her life.  How she moves on is at the heart of the book.


Release Date:  February 27th, 2018

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Publisher:  Random House Books for Young Readers

Page Length:  544 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: A must-read for fans of Seraphina, this book has a main character that you will want to follow.  I loved it!

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2018 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 5 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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