By Rachel Hartman
Random House, 2018, 536 pages, Young Adult Fiction
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, Tess chafes against the rules and restrictions placed on young women by society. She is young and curious about life, and especially interested in learning about the magical creatures known as the World Serpents. Yet instead of pursuing a life of knowledge, Tess despairs that her only choice is to either raise her sister’s children, or join a nunnery. Unsatisfied with both options, Tess decides to run away from home and create a new destiny for herself.
On the surface, this is a fun travel/adventure story set in a version of the Medieval era where dragons exist (but don’t terrorize people), and there are some small steampunk elements as well. The book is enjoyable enough on that premise. But this book becomes more than that when Tess learns lessons about consent, shame, and not letting others control you or dictate who you become. I found that message to be very empowering.
This book is set in the same world as that of the author’s previous novels (Seraphina is Tess’ half-sister), which I haven’t read. I would still consider this book a standalone.