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Reviewed by:
  • Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
  • Sarah Sahn
Hartman, Rachel Tess of the Road. Random House, 2018 [544p]
Library ed. ISBN 978-1-101-93129-5 $21.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-101-93128-8 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-101-93130-1 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 10-12

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. [End Page 291]



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p. 291
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