*Tess of the Road will be released Tuesday, February 27th!*
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018. Hardcover. 544 pages.
This was a book that surprised me in a lot of ways.
The most surprising part of Tess of the Road was that it was much more character-centric than it was focused on the plot, which I didn't expect. There is still definitely a plot, don't get me wrong, but Tess' personal journey was far more important than her physical journey. The personal and physical mesh, however, as Tess has to endure her own physical adventure in order to conquer her mental/personal challenges. If you are someone that prefers your books to have a decent bit of action and excitement, then this probably isn't one for you. If, however, you don't mind a slow-moving pace that acts more as a character study, then you will love Tess of the Road. This book is set in the same world as Hartman's Seraphina books, but the previous series is not required reading before starting this book.
In regards to the character of Tess: I really liked getting to know her. Despite the fact that she was often stubborn, reckless, and made poor decisions, there was still something about her that I was drawn to. I partially think that this is because Tess is someone that most of us can relate to in one way or another. She is most definitely not perfect and in fact makes quite a few less-than-glamorous decisions, but despite all of this... she dreams. She wants for more than what she is, she longs to not just be the side character in her--or anyone else's--life. Her journey was a long one, and at times I felt as if it were moving a bit too slowly, but then Tess would discover some new step or realization about herself and it all made sense again.
The other characters that Hartman introduces are also ones that always seem to be on a bit of a journey themselves. Everyone that Tess meets seems to be at a different stage in their life, which I found particularly interesting because they ended up making many of the same revelations as Tess.
Something that impressed and surprised was how relevant the topics in this book were despite time-period/fantasy setting of this book. The most prominent of these was the inclusion of a person with disabilities and a 'was-it-rape' scenario, both of which were included smoothly and in a smart, informative manner.
The reason that I've given this book only four stars, however, is because it did drag quite a lot in more than one area. I found myself getting a bit bored and frustrated at various times, wishing that the book would just move on and continue the story. This may have been a character-focused story, but it still needed plot to keep it going.
Hartman is clearly an adept writer who knows how to craft a passionate and well-written tale. The overall theme of this book to 'just keep walking the road' was told so well, and I really can't relate to it enough. The world-building is subtle, but distinct, and the creatures and magic within it are really something unique in fantasy. I feel like so much of what is in this novel can be best described as 'subtle,' but also incredibly beautiful and enchanting. If you're looking for a fantasy focused on characters and the world itself, then this is the book for you.
Overall, I've given Tess of the Road four stars!
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