Tess of the Toad by Rachel Hartman

My Rating: 3/5

Cover Rating: 10/10 I LOVE this cover. It’s illustrative, cool toned, and simply GORGEOUS! Plus it features a dragon! I could gush about this cover for ages.

Publisher: Random House Children’s

Publish Date: February 27th, 2018

Number of Pages: 544

Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review

Purchase: Amazon


Award-winning Rachel Hartman’s newest YA is a tour de force and an exquisite fantasy for the #metoo movement.

“Tess of the Road is astonishing and perfect. It’s the most compassionate book I’ve read since George Eliot’s Middlemarch.” — NPR

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons can be whomever they choose. Tess is none of these things. Tess is. . . different. She speaks out of turn, has wild ideas, and can’t seem to keep out of trouble. Then Tess goes too far. What she’s done is so disgraceful, she can’t even allow herself to think of it. Unfortunately, the past cannot be ignored. So Tess’s family decide the only path for her is a nunnery.

But on the day she is to join the nuns, Tess chooses a different path for herself. She cuts her hair, pulls on her boots, and sets out on a journey. She’s not running away, she’s running towards something. What that something is, she doesn’t know. Tess just knows that the open road is a map to somewhere else–a life where she might belong.

Returning to the spellbinding world of the Southlands she created in the award-winning, New York Times bestselling novel Seraphina, Rachel Hartman explores self-reliance and redemption in this wholly original fantasy.

Four starred reviews!

“The world building is gorgeous, the creatures are vivid and Hartman is a masterful storyteller. Pick up this novel, and savor every page.” — Paste Magazine

Opening Sentence:

“When Tessie Dombegh was six and still irrepressible, she married her twin sister, Jeanne, in the courtyard of their childhood home.”


Tess of the Road follows Tess’s journey on the road to finding herself and turning running away into running toward. There are parts of this novel I love and parts of this novel that frustrated me. However, despite all that, the core message of this novel resonated with me.

What I Loved:

Tess is a flawed human who is learning all the time. Not only is Tess flawed, but the novel gives the why. How she was raised made her think that she was worth dirt. She goes through life thinking that she was born evil. During the time she’s on the road and reflects over her past and what she wants finding happiness in the strength of her feet propelling herself forward. It’s something that inspires me. She changes.

Her friendship with Pathka. Pathka is a creature that Tess befriended when she was young. Pathka is also flawed, but somehow the way they lean on each other and help each other grow inspired me.

The World Serpent. I love magical creatures and I was so excited to see this particular creature living inside Tess of the Road. Especially after watching a play through of God of War.

Tess’s backstory. Our main characters backstory is harsh and unforgiving yet full of mischief. I honestly feel like the book could have been stronger if it’s entirety past and present showed that sort of struggle.

What I Didn’t Like:

The beginning. There was a lot of things about the pacing of the beginning that made me feel like I was slogging through the novel. It felt like nothing was happening and I felt bored.

The weird language. This might just be a me thing, but it went from really complicated words to cussing language pretty often and that through me off. It was like the Author was trying to smash together to appeal to new and older audiences and I wish she would have just chosen one.

Final thoughts:

Tess of the road has a message and ending that redeems its beginning. I really enjoyed parts of this novel and I wish I could have said it’s entirety was great.

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below.

-Till next time!

8 thoughts on “Tess of the Road: A Review

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