Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

April 3, 2018

“It matters less where you go than that you keep moving.”

Tess Dombegh has ruined her life. When she was 14-years-old, tragedy struck, and her prospects for ever being more than a lady-in-waiting are shattered. Now, she quietly attends to her sister Jeanne, who is soon to be married off to a rich noble.

Secretly, Tess dreams to go on adventures like the pirate Dozerius, a hero from her favorite fantasy stories. She longs to return to her carefree childhood when her friend told stories of giant serpents that lived under the earth, more powerful than even dragons.

When Tess is given a chance to escape her life in court, she takes it and sets off on a journey to begin her life of discovery. But, to change the world, she’s going to have to change herself, and to change herself she must come to terms with a past that has plagued her for too long. Because heroes aren’t ladies-in-waiting or housemaids. Heros are free, free of nagging mothers and overbearing saints. Free of courtesy, expectations, and judgment. Free to wander the road.

It took me a while to warm up to Tess of the Road. I haven’t read Rachel Hartman’s other series, Seraphina, but it seemed to be The Grisha Trilogy to this book’s Six of Crows. (i.e., not required to understand it’s counterpart.) That said, after completing Tess, I definitely am interested in reading Seraphina, as its title character made multiple cameos and was one of my favorite parts of Tess’ story.

The diverse cast of characters was an extremely important part of Tess. Tess met people from all classes, races, and beliefs on her journey, and each of them helped branch out her sheltered perspective of the world. It was a bit cheesy how Tess met all these people once, never saw them again, and then recalled all of them at the end of the story. It reminded me a bit of TV series where you meet a new character each episode, but they’re only important in that episode and never seen again.

Tess was chock full of interesting and slightly philosophical quotes, like “You will wander the dark places under the earth, but you will come back with the sun” and “There are never just two choices. That is a lie to keep you from thinking too deeply.” Some books try too hard to have a message/theme, sticking in deep thoughts where they seem random or out of place. That was not the case with Tess: these nuggets of wisdom slipped in seamlessly and have a profound effect on the reader.

Overall, I had a good time reading Tess. Although it’s slow to start, once it gets going it’s a perfect book for fans of medieval fantasy, impossible adventures, snarky sidekicks, girls dressing as boys, and complex personal revelations.






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