May 15, 2019

Hugo Reading 2019: "Tess of the Road," by Rachel Hartman

Tess of the Road Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a sort-of sequel to Seraphina and Shadow Scale, which introduced the country of Goredd and its dragon/human conflict. Tess Dombegh, the protagonist of this book, is the younger half sister of Seraphina, the half dragon/human who averted a war in the two earlier books. This book does not have stakes anywhere near that; it is the story of Tess's journey, both on the literal road and within, as she works through some PTSD and finds her own strength and sense of self-worth.

It's a deep character study, and the inner journey is meant to match the journey on the road: one step forward and two steps back, sometimes meandering, sometimes running, following the detours wherever they lead, and finally, at the end, coming to a better place with hope for the future. Not all of Tess's problems are solved, and not all of her mistakes are forgiven. This is fine, as she ends up a stronger person, sure of who she is and looking forward to the challenges ahead.

I liked it well enough, but it didn't knock my socks off. Maybe because in the two earlier books, Seraphina was a better-drawn and more interesting protagonist. This book also dragged in the middle and could have used some tightening up. The world opened up a bit, with the introduction of the World Lizards (basically a underground Goreddi version of Godzilla) that Tess's traveling companion, the quigutl Pathka (quigutls are smaller wingless cousins of this universe's dragons) is in search of. Unfortunately, the worldbuilding, the plotting in general, and the characterization is not enough to entice me to read further books about Tess.

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