Sunday, July 08, 2018

Tess of the Road - Rachel Hartman

“Her head nested in spindly weeds; beyond them the sky glowed preternaturally blue through the slats. As her chewing slowed, she noticed a bee crawling along a blade of grass above her head. She counted its stripes, amazed to see them juxtaposed with the stripes of sky. The bees were a warning, the sky’s a promise she could not yet fathom, and for a moment everything seemed connected, aching beauty and imminent danger, the fragility of the bee and the scalded roof of her mouth, the transcendent savor of bread and the fact that she was literally lying in a ditch.”

Tess Dombegh is a problem child, the bad twin and a troublemaker. At least, that’s what her family would have you believe. When in truth she’s felt overlooked in favour of her “prettier, kinder” twin and her older half-dragon sister, endured years of verbal abuse from her mother and was assaulted by someone she trusted. Suffocated under the weight of familial expectations and forced to accept a role she doesn’t want, Tess leaves home on the hunt for purpose and adventure.

The story is decidedly mature with adult themes and situations and though it’s the third book in the series, readers don’t need to start from the beginning to understand the story. The world Hartman has built is full and populated with a plethora of complex characters and memorable personalities. We’re also introduced to a number of areas due to the distance Tess travels. This is all held together by rich description and vivid imagery that bring the kingdom of Goredd and its people to life.

Tess is a flawed character and a refreshing change from the stereotype of a perfect protagonist. She’s stubborn, has a temper and holds a grudge. Over the course of the story we witness her grow and change in relation to her circumstances and the people surrounding her. And thanks to length of the book, her character development felt organic and realistic.

One thing that would have made the story more comprehensive was a map. Without one it made picturing Tess’ journey difficult. As well there were some spots where scenes felt compressed or skipped over, such as at the monastery. Expanding these scenes would have allowed for more character interaction as these settings sometimes felt rushed through.

If you’re looking for an engaging story set in a world populated by magic, dragons and legends I would highly recommend you try this series.   

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