Book Review: Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Book Rating (out of 5):

Sometimes being the first to read a book is painful. I’m sorry to say that this was one of those books for me.

Having read Seraphina 2 years ago and having loved it, I was excited to see another book in the series pop up on Netgalley. In my excitement though, I’d forgotten that there was a sequel to Seraphina called Shadow Scale that I never read because of its middlin’ reviews. In hindsight, I should have listened to my initial intuition and left this series alone after Seraphina.

I’m tempted to give it 2 stars because I managed to finish it. But in my heart of hearts, it’s a 1 star. I mean “finish” is a strong word here as I mostly skimmed the last 10-15% because I was just over it.

The story follows Tess, the rebel/black sheep of her family, as she flees home. Tess is a wild thing, a free spirit who doesn’t listen to anyone and that wildness gets her in trouble time and time again. As she’s about to be punted into a nunnery, she decides it’s finally time to cut her losses and flee with a little help from her half-sister, Seraphina.

I didn’t love Tess. I didn’t hate Tess. I felt for her at times, but I wasn’t connected to her as a character. I understood why she wanted to hit the road, but she was so stubborn and bitter that she was hard to root for. She thought nothing through before she acted and frankly, it seemed sheer happenstance that she survived most of her adventures (mostly) unscathed. You could tell through bits of backstory here and there that her circumstances were not entirely her fault. A lot of what happened to make Tess who she was, happened when she was very, very young. So you suspect, but you don’t really know what happened for a long time because her backstory took too long to unfold. And by the time you find out, it’s too late.

In the end, I felt like her journey was too long. Her self discoveries were too far, few between and lacking in punch or persuasion. She came out of it slightly more mature maybe, but a better or different person??? I’m not sure if even after 544 pages I could give a definitive answer of yes to that question. Yes, she changed, but she didn’t seem to really evolve that much to me over all those miles, if that makes any sense.

I’ll admit that I was sorely tempted to DNF this a few times. Frankly, having finished it, I realize that I should have followed my instincts as this just wasn’t my type of book. But maybe you like a long and winding road that never seem to end. If you liked Seraphina and Shadow Scale, then this book will likely speak to you. If not, then well…don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Tess of the Road hits shelves February 27, 2018.

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