Tess of the Road, the latest dragon-centric release from Seraphina author Rachel Hartman, is one of our new favorite books – and we think every Inheritance Cycle fan should dig in!
Tess of the Road is a fantasy book that captured my heart from the first pages of the prologue. At its core, the story is a self-discovery tale of a young woman fighting against the expectations and morals of those around her – expectations and morals she simply can’t meet.
The story of Tess comes after author Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina duology, a tale of the titular half-dragon character’s own journey of self-discovery and her efforts to aid in saving the land she inhabits. However, the main characters have little in common, as Tess’s nature is much different from that of her half-sister, Seraphina (the result of their father’s first marriage to a dragon, who, in this universe, take the shape of humans for all but one day of the year).
Tess of the Road follows the titular character’s adventure across the fantasy land of Goredd, filled with mythical creatures, cultures, languages, and magical settings. Characters from the Seraphina and Shadow Scale make appearances along the way. Her adventure lacks the political tensions experienced in Seraphina, instead focusing on Tess as a person and her inner struggles.
Tess’s charm comes from her abrasive nature – her unintended knack for coming across as uncooperative and, as a result, less-than-charming. Conforming isn’t an option for Tess, who bucked the norms from a young age as demonstrated in the book’s charming prologue, introducing us to a 6-year-old Tess (referred to as a “spank magnet”) as she presides over a wedding between her young sister and cousin.
The book embraces the familiar – but enjoyable – trope of a girl dressing as a boy to go unnoticed, and this adds another layer to the overall sense that Tess struggles to embrace her own differences and the path she’s meant to follow, which is significantly different from that of her twin sister and the rest of her family.
Without spoiling the story, the adventure takes us across Goredd, Hartman’s fantasy world, and follows Tess’s journey on “the Road,” discovering more of Goredd, meeting new people, and taking risks. Hartman’s beautiful writing style subtly – and sometimes, not-so-subtly – explores morals and the consequences of unpleasant medieval cultures. These themes will resonate with the struggles teens face today, and put in the context of a medieval setting, may help teens better navigate those struggles as they witness a relatable fantasy character going through the same.
While this adventure is a darker, heavier read due to a lot of its subject matter, we consider it an essential read for any fan of fantasy and top-notch writing!
Interested in snagging a copy of Tess of the Road? You can purchase the book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Random House! You can learn more about Rachel’s books, Seraphina, Shadow Scale, and Tess of the Road, on her official website, and can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.