Tess of the Road

Tess of the Road

Book - 2018
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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.
Publisher: Toronto, Ontario :, Penguin Teen,, 2018.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780385685887
Characteristics: 536 pages ;,21 cm.


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Hugo Award Finalist - Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (2019)

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Mar 09, 2021

Book #1 (of 2) in the series.

IndyPL_SteveB Sep 23, 2020

An exceptional young adult fantasy novel, with an impressive combination of creativity, humor, adventure, disaster, and wisdom. Some of the early chapters have a bit of Jane Austen feel, with the satire on the need for marriage. The focus after that is on a headstrong, selfish teenager leaving her family to find her independence. While this is the third book in the series, it can easily be read independently, since the main character in the previous two books is only a minor character in this one.

Tess Dombegh is a twin, one of the children of a disgraced lawyer in the semi-medieval kingdom of Goredd. Her older half-sister, Seraphina (the lead character of the first two books) is half-dragon, -- which caused the disgrace for her father. Tess and her sister Jeanne are the products of an unhappy second marriage. Tess becomes pregnant at 15 by a university student, who then left town. After spending two years helping Jeanne find a husband, Tess then nearly ruins the wedding by punching the groom’s brother in the nose. Tess disguises herself as a boy and runs off. While traveling, she runs across an old friend – a quigutl named Pathka. Quigutls are smaller dragon cousins which few humans have bothered to learn to communicate with. Tess and Pathka head off on a quest to seek the World Serpents, important beasts in the quigutl mythology.

JCLBetM Jun 10, 2020

A well-woven tale of a young girl who runs away but ends up opening herself to great truths, transforming her flight into a journey that reconnects her to herself, the past, and those she left behind. It reminded me in its intention of Coelho's "The Alchemist" but has more humor and fascinating creatures (quigutls!). While, for me, it started a bit slow, after meeting the quig Pathka I was quite intrigued, and so glad I kept reading by the end.

I see why people like this one, and I see why people hate it. I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle of the road (see what I did there), but this felt like a journey, and left me feeling somewhat indifferent to it despite a beginning that left me so excited for where the story was going.

I did not read Seraphina, nor any other book by Rachel Hartman before I jumped into this at the recommendation of one of my classmates. I came into it with no idea of the world or how it works, but I didn't find that it hindered my understanding of Tess and her place in the grand scheme of things. This is a world with dragons and magic and political dynamics that reflect an old world, with all the patriarchy and misogyny that comes along with it. Tess is a girl who is rebellious, unrepentant, and brash, and I loved those aspects of her personality.

The story is what left me feeling kind of put off by the whole enterprise of this novel. Tess punches a priest, and rather than get sent to a monastery, she begins her journey on the road. She walks, and she walks, and she walks, and...you guessed it, she walks. It becomes her mantra - "walk on" - and the whole book is, basically, her walking on. I get that this is a character study; there are a lot of flashbacks to Tess's life before, how she got to the point of needing to be on her own, how she became the "younger" sibling despite her age in order for her sister to be the one to marry and carry on the family name, and how the traumas of her past inform the way she conducts herself in the present. But the episodes of her adventure feel like just that - episodes that left me wondering how they connect to everything else, and when they didn't, kind of like I had been cheated of something.

I invested a ton of time in Tess and her story. 16 hours of listening, in fact. And somewhere along the line, I went from wanting desperately to know what happened next, to being indifferent, to playing it at double speed just to get through it. As a character, I loved Tess. As a story, I disliked the episodic nature of the narrative and how everything just happens to Tess. She is an agent of change in her own humanity and in taking the reins of her own choices, but ultimately, she stumbles into a lot of things, and kind of continues stumbling along as they happen to her. I didn't connect with her like I thought I would after the first few chapters, and that makes me think that Hartman's world just isn't for me.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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

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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