Review: Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Tess of the RoadTess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]

I really loved Hartman's first book in this world, Seraphina. There was a lot to love about Phina, and a lot to learn about the dragons. In Tess of the Road, we see Phina from a different angle, and it's not quite so lovely. In fact, I think that's why I wasn't as thrilled with this book as I was with Seraphina.

In Tess of the Road, we get the story from Tess's POV. Tess is the younger half-sister of Seraphina, and while she played only a minor part in the first book, this is the beginning of her story. And it's not a pleasant one. Tess is an alcoholic, scarred by a romance-gone-wrong which has left her "sullied," a fallen woman, who then has to pretend to be the younger twin so that her real younger twin, Jeanne, can get married first and bring the family back to prosperity.

I feel for her, really I do. She has experienced tragedy like I could never imagine. And it is understandable why she hates her life - I hate her life. And I hate pretty much everyone in it, including Phina. That's what bothered me - one of the characters I had grown to love in another book, I was essentially told to hate in this one. She's pictured as cold, annoying, superior, and generally unable to feel anything for anyone. That doesn't completely jive with the character I got to know.

Also, there was a LOT going on in this book. Once Tess runs away from home (which we all know she's going to do, because otherwise the book couldn't be named as it is), she goes for a walk. She doesn't think it through. She just knows she's leaving, she has a bag-o-crap to get her along for a few days, and after that it's the glory of open roads and everyone leaving her the heck alone. All of that sounds fantastic, but then she sees men on the road and in the fields, and because of her mother's batshit St. Vitt, she thinks that all of them are going to try to assault her because that's what men do. She goes on like this for a while until she realizes, hey, why don't I become a man too? Then they'll leave me the heck alone.

Now, this trope is pretty overdone. I've read so many books just this year alone that deal with characters who cross-dress because of reasons. Frankly, I'm surprised Tess is believed for a man. She doesn't seem to make attempts to really alter herself other than the clothes she's wearing, and eventually cutting her hair (it is noted a few times that she deliberately pitches her voice down, but honestly, how realistic is that?). I didn't particularly enjoy the whole man thing, and I thought it was completely ridiculous that she used her brother-in-law's name the entire trip through Goredd, as if no one was going to track her down that way.

The slow reveal of Tess's relationship with Will was also drawn out a bit too much. We don't get the whole story until the very end, and I guess you could say that was for character development since by the end she's finally "strong" enough to face what happened to her, but I felt like some of it could have been revealed a little earlier, or at least not in such scattered pieces.

Then we have Tess's development as a person. She sobers up on her trip, and meets up with and rescues an old friend, Pathka, a quigtl (we met those in Seraphina, if you recall). Pathka is on a quest to find Anathuthia, a World Serpent, something of myths and legends and that no one believes is actually real (except Pathka and Tess). So Tess decides to join up with Pathka, go find this giant serpent, and so begins their quest. Tess learns she's a terrible thief, but never thinks to actually work for her food and lodging until much later. She's a little brainless sometimes, never quite thinking things through until it's too late. She rescues an old man, meets the nuns she was supposed to join but ran away from, and poses as "Brother Jacomo" to just about everyone who will listen. She tries to think of herself as a hero, as someone who is strong, but doesn't want to face the hard things about herself and her past. When she finally does, it is very emotional. I admit I teared up a little when she has these major revelations about herself.

But despite the heavy emotions in this book (and they are super heavy), I still didn't love it. Like I mentioned above, there's a lot going on. There are a lot of side-stops, a lot of attempts to find Anathuthia, and a lot of flash-backs while she's trying to find her way. Eventually she's responsible for something very tragic while trying to be a hero, and I'm not quite convinced she truly understands how completely ridiculous she was. The repercussions of what happens towards the end aren't even felt in this book (I'm hoping they will be left for the next book, since there's a pretty big cliffhanger there).

And it made me hate Phina. That sucked.

Good book, but while I loved Seraphina, I didn't love this one. Read if you like a slow burn and a lot of side stories.

View all my reviews

Review: The New Dark by Lorraine Thomson

The New DarkThe New Dark by Lorraine Thomson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]

I don't want to write a lengthy review on this, because there isn't much to say. I will say that I've read this story before, by many other authors, and most of them were done better. It doesn't bring anything new to the table, but rather feels like a mish-mash of a bunch of other post-apocalyptic books I've read over the last few years. What really got me was the religious cult in Ulbroom, and how similar it felt to the Mormons in The Book of the Unnamed Midwife.

I couldn't really understand the motivations of most of the characters. I couldn't understand why the mutants were killed at birth, other than because they're mutants. If Einstein is a good mutant, couldn't you raise a mutant to be a good kid just like any other kid? It wasn't explained at all. The plot is not that original, and there's a LOT of crossing-paths-unseen missing of two people who are looking for each other, and are in the same place at the same time but never meet up. And then we get to the end, where this group wants Sorrell to help them start a revolution, all because she has a stupid birthmark on her wrist that matches a poster in an old tube station. None of it makes any sense.

Lastly, there were a lot of wrong words and misspellings. At first I thought that it was a translation error, because they happened so frequently and stood out so much. I noticed when I started that there was a German edition and a German publisher, but now that I see the author is from Scotland, it doesn't make more sense to me. Oh well.

Frankly, there are better books out there that tell a very similar story. I recommend The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, for one (although this is YA, and Unnamed Midwife is definitely adult). It's not a similar story, but it's better post-apocalyptic literature, and I think it tackles a lot of the same issues much more thoroughly.

View all my reviews

Review: Dance of Thieves by Mary Pearson

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson My rating: 5 of 5 stars I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes. ...