Monday, March 12, 2018

Book Review: Tess Of The Road (Tess Of The Road #1) by: Rachel Hartman

Release Date: February 27, 2018
from Random House Books for Young Readers
Goodreads | Amazon
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley and voluntarily provided a fair and honest review.
"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."

My Thoughts:

I have been deceived by that cover. A cover like that basically promises dragons. I mean the dragon is the most prominent part of the cover. Well… this book did not have a single dragon. There was a weird lizard thing and giant snakes… which are like sub-species of dragons maybe (idk tbh) but not one traditional dragon and that cover is false advertising. And look, I know covers are not always indicative of the books insides, but this book was SO not what I was expecting or what I got from the synopsis and it really fell flat for me.

To start, there really isn’t much plot. It’s really just Tess on her journey and she takes different side trips along the way. There isn’t one real destination and the story doesn’t build up to any one thing. The action is minimal and I never fully understood where the story was trying to go. The book is really just Tess’ journey and her journey of self-discovery and while that’s a worthy journey in and of itself, for the reader there’s no real central storyline or overarching plot. Also, Tess’ friend Pathka is also on his own journey and I’m not going to lie, I never came to fully understand what was going on there and I think that was a severe lack in the world building.

While I’m on the topic of world building, I feel like I was really missing something by not having read Seraphina. And I’m kind of miffed by that. I know this takes place in the same world as Seraphina, but from the blurb it seems to be its own series and because of that this book should have presented this world to a reader and not hoped that the reader had read Seraphina. I felt as if there were words and creatures and references that just went over my head and they took me out of the story and left me confused. I know you don’t want to rehash elements for returning readers, but at the same time one book should present the things you need to know and not confuse you. Maybe I would have enjoyed this more had I read Seraphina, but guess we’ll never know. Then again, there still wouldn’t have been much plot.

I’ll also say it was VERY hard to like any of the characters.  I did love Tess. She is strong and flawed and capable and many would deem her unlikable, which is why I loved her. But aside from her I struggled. Her friend Pathka (the weird lizard dragon thing – quitgul) was not at all likable and I wouldn’t even call him a friend. Jeanne (her sister) was the actual worst. She had no backbone and relied on Tess for everything and while everyone called Tess selfish, I'd argue the selfish one was Jeanne. Her mother and father are terrible people as well. The only ones I didn’t hate were Seraphina and Josquin.

What makes me so sad about all of this though is that I truly truly love the message this book tries to get across. It really parallels sexism and the double standards women face with the real world so well. Men are forgiven easily for mistakes that women are not forgiven ever for. Or women even bear all the blame for mistakes of the men. I truly did love that commentary and that message, which is why it breaks my heart that I didn’t love this book.

Tess Of The Road is a book that had so much potential and then just did not deliver for me. I’m forever mad about the lack of dragons and I’m so upset this book was not all I hoped.

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