A smoothie of Into the Wild and On the Road, blended with Grade A feminism and fantasy. Though the plot moves at a walking pace, Tess's character drives this book forward. As she follows the eponymous road on her indelible journey, she moves away from a past that shackles her and towards a future that welcomes her audacious spirit. And as Tess learns, sometimes you just have to walk it off to progress.
Award-winning Rachel Hartman's newest YA is a tour de force and an exquisite fantasy for the #metoo movement.
"Tess of the Road is astonishing and perfect. It's the most compassionate book I've read since George Eliot's Middlemarch." --NPR
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons can be whomever they choose. Tess is none of these things. Tess is. . . different. She speaks out of turn, has wild ideas, and can't seem to keep out of trouble. Then Tess goes too far. What she's done is so disgraceful, she can't even allow herself to think of it. Unfortunately, the past cannot be ignored. So Tess's family decide the only path for her is a nunnery.
But on the day she is to join the nuns, Tess chooses a different path for herself. She cuts her hair, pulls on her boots, and sets out on a journey. She's not running away, she's running towards something. What that something is, she doesn't know. Tess just knows that the open road is a map to somewhere else--a life where she might belong.
Returning to the spellbinding world of the Southlands she created in the award-winning, New York Times bestselling novel Seraphina, Rachel Hartman explores self-reliance and redemption in this wholly original fantasy.
Four starred reviews!
"The world building is gorgeous, the creatures are vivid and Hartman is a masterful storyteller. Pick up this novel, and savor every page." --Paste Magazine
About the Author
As a child, RACHEL HARTMAN played cello, lip-synched Mozart operas with her sisters, and fostered the deep love of music that inspired much of Seraphina. Rachel earned a degree in comparative literature but eschewed graduate school in favor of bookselling and drawing comics. Born in Kentucky, she has lived in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, England, and Japan. She now lives with her family in Vancouver, Canada. To learn more, please visit SeraphinaBooks.com or RachelHartmanBooks.com.
"In her triumphant return to the world of Seraphina (2012), Hartman introduces Tess Dombegh, one of Seraphina’s stepsiblings. After a shattering fall from grace, Tess has tried to be the dutiful daughter to her critical mother. She may never be good, but maybe she can be good enough to be forgiven. When Tess drunkenly ruins her sister’s wedding night, she’s almost relieved to run away. Disguised as a boy, she seeks oblivion on the road; instead, she’s invited to help find a legendary serpent by her childhood friend, a quigutl (dragon subspecies). Along the way, Tess runs afoul of robbers, works as a manual laborer, poses as a priest, and struggles to make peace with past trauma. First in a duology, this is a perfect example of a familiar fantasy trope being given new dimension through empathetic characters and exquisite storytelling. At first appearing bitter and self-pitying, Tess reveals compassion, courage, and resilience on her journey, which is as emotional and spiritual as it is physical. This achingly real portrayal of a young woman whose self-loathing takes help to heal is a perceptive examination of rape culture rare in high fantasy. Not to be ignored, this is also a fascinating road trip adventure. Absolutely essential."—Booklist, starred review
"Hartman returns to Goredd with the tale of another young woman who breaks the rules in search of herself. There are three Dombegh sisters: naughty Tess, perfect twin Jeanne, and famous, talented older sister Seraphina (of Seraphina, 2012, and Shadow Scale, 2015). Now 17, haunted by past mistakes, immersed in self-denial and the need to follow "proper" behavior, white Tess—who once befriended lizardlike Quigutl and secretly attended lectures—is miserable. After drunkenly punching her new brother-in-law at Jeanne's wedding, Tess dresses as a boy and takes off. She travels across Goredd and Ninys in search of a Quigutl prophecy and her own purpose, in a sometimes-episodic tale narrated in descriptive, sharply observant third-person prose. Angry, bitter Tess has reason for her feelings but is not always easy to walk with, and the slow reveal of her past makes for a compelling read on the ways in which girls—in the quasi-Renaissance Goredd and also in the real world—are taught to take blame on themselves even when others are culpable. Fortunately, the Road has answers ("walk on"), and by the end Tess has faced her past and can look forward to another volume of adventure, discovery, and changing her world. Like Tess' journey, surprising, rewarding, and enlightening, both a fantasy adventure and a meta discourse on consent, shame, and female empowerment. (dramatis personae, glossary; not seen) (Fantasy. 13-adult) "—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"In the repressive kingdom of Goredd, seventeen-year-old Tess Dombegh, the family trouble child, is trying to keep her head down and help her virtuous twin sister Jeanne make a suitable marriage at court. Nothing Tess does can please their pious mother, though, and once Jeanne is married, her parents are planning to send Tess to a convent—the only place for a girl who destroyed her own chances when she lost her virginity out of wedlock. Disguising herself as a boy for safety, Tess flees and joins her childhood friend Pathka on his quest to find the mythical World Serpent. She finds her own sense of purpose in their meandering journey, also discovering as she walks and she trades farm labor for food and shelter that her body isn’t the wellspring of sin she’d been taught. Tess is a deeply compelling protagonist; angry, conflicted, and determined to find her place in a world that sees her as irrevocably damaged. The novel deals frankly with sexuality and sexual violence, both in the slow unfolding of the events that disgraced Tess in her family’s eyes—her rape, pregnancy, and the death of her premature baby when she was fourteen—and in the healing relationship she has toward the end of her travels. Neither Tess nor the novel is defined by her trauma, though; her story is also a rousing adventure set in a richly drawn world, and the novel’s conclusion sets up a sequel that promises to have every bit as much excitement, and a healthy dose of political intrigue as well. Newcomers to Hartman’s work will be every bit as enthralled as her fans with this companion novel to Seraphina (BCCB 9/12) and Shadow Scale. SS "—Bulletin, starred review