I read Seraphina a while back and I fell in love. It had dragons and court life and great world-building. It was definitely very different from most fantasy stories I’ve read but I enjoyed it immensely. When I saw that LibraryThing was hosting an Early Reviewer giveaway for Tess of the Road, I immediately jumped at the chance, and was delighted to receive a copy. From the synopsis, I was aware that the book took place in the world of Seraphina and I was excited to get back into it. Here is my review:
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.
Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl–a subspecies of dragon–who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.
Review: Getting back into the world created in Seraphina through the eyes of a new character was really exciting for me. That being said, I would HIGHLY recommend that you read Seraphina before this one; this novel draws on many terms and concepts from Seraphina and the author doesn’t really take the time to explain it again in this book, so readers might find themselves lost.
When I started reading this novel, I was surprised to find that it was quite slow. Based on the premise, I think I was expecting a faster pace to the story. I also found Tess’s character to be … well, not to my liking. She is quite selfish and a little too impulsive. However, as I was thinking this, I also found myself liking this choice for a protagonist. I have always favoured flawed main characters to perfect one – and Tess is definitely in the former category.
As the story continues, there is an allusion to an incident that Tess was involved in that has made her undesirable and given her a bad reputation – and it is connected to a sexual encounter. The mystery surrounding this incident immediately made me want to know more, and it served as a pushing force for me to continue with the story. At the same time, I was surprised that the author wanted to discuss sex and sexuality; I hadn’t pegged this as the direction for this novel.
One of the major problems I encountered in this book was that it had very slow pacing. Not much happens in this story. Tess goes on a journey to escape life in a nunnery – and to escape the judgmental attitude of her family and friends. There are bouts of adventure but for the most part, there was just a lot of walking and talking and philosophizing. Now, I’m not really a fan of philosophy so I found some of these talks to be a little tedious to get through but I found that they were important for setting the stage for some of the moral issues the author explores.
Because while Tess was going through a boring outward journey, she was going through a rigorous inward journey. This novel was all about Tess’s ingrained views on sexuality and proper behaviour (as she was taught by her mother) and the way her experiences and the views of others’ challenges these beliefs. The reader gets to see how Tess has been bullied and shamed into feeling inferior and how she rises from this and starts to love herself again. I think that this theme is a really important one to cover and I think that, while the author had a shaky start with it in the beginning, it all came together quite well in the end.
This is a book that won’t work for everyone. The slow pacing and the initial un-likable-ness of Tess can be offputting for a lot of readers. But if you push through, you’ll see that this novel has its merits. It’s all about self-love and taking care of oneself. It’s about different ways to think about sex and sexuality, and the issues of being judged by traditionalist views on a female’s role in the bedroom. I like how the novel challenged these issues through Tess’s character and for that reason, I’m going to give this a 3.5/5 stars. The reason I can’t give it a higher rating is because the pacing was difficult to deal with and there wasn’t really much of a plot.
This is a novel I would recommend for fans of Seraphina and for those who are looking for a novel that looks into morality through the genre of fantasy.