TESS OF THE ROAD, by Rachel Hartman, Penguin Teen, Penguin Random House


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.


I was sent this book in exchange for my honest review.

I would recommend reading Seraphina and its sequel in order to understand the world that Tess lives in.

For the life of me, I don’t know why people can’t read a book just for its simple enjoyment. I also don’t understand why a female Protagonist can’t be liked, readers often love a male Protagonist with the same personality traits.

I, however, enjoyed the sassy, sullen and angry Tess.  She had good cause to be angry.  She lived in a time where women were expected to be a certain way, which was not her way.  However, if a man lived and did what she’d done throughout the book, they would have received a slap on the back and given credit from, forgive me, the “Good Ole Boys’ Club.”

Her family tells her she’s ruined, no man will want her and that she needs to go live in a convent?  Seriously?  If a boy had sex at the age of thirteen, he’d be cheered and told “He’s da man!”  Okay, okay, thirteen is too young I know this, but my point is, this book focuses on the double standards women of this land and time have to face.  The only solution Tess can think of to avoid a life in a convent is to hit the road, and yup, dress like a man…

The title is appropriately labeled, “Tess of the Road.”  So for all you people who complain that it’s misleading and not what you thought but a book about Tess walking a road, well duh, it’s in the title…  The metaphor is that Tess is on a road to self-discovery.  The dragon is symbolic to the inner struggles she constantly deals with and how she resolves them.  People complaining about the book cover being misleading missed this.  There are still dragons in this book, they are in the guise of inner-struggles, the dragons  within.

I love how Tess doesn’t conform easily, that her curiosity and outspokenness keeps her reaching constantly for more out of life.  She is obviously frustrated with the sexism of her world and the constraints this shortcoming puts on women.  She’s defiant, brusque, and nonconforming.  This could make some not like her character.

The irony of a male priest telling Tess how she should behave when it comes to men and women… I wanted to punch him too.   I however, found this refreshing.  Some of the subject matter regarding sex has been thought risky for a YA… are you kidding me.  Teens today are doing far worse.

I love the writing. Sure, there are a few issues that I have trouble with, but overall, this is a simple, enjoyable read.  Flashbacks are not necessarily the best way to explain the present situation, but in this book, they were effective. The character development was steady, moving in various directions, again I didn’t necessarily agree with but they were entertaining.

I gave this book:




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