Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-Set in the same world as Seraphina and Shadow Scales, Hartman's new book is full of dragons, "quigults," and quests. Tess, Seraphina's younger half sister, is a curious girl. From trying to learn how babies are made to sneaking out of the house to attend scientific lectures, she is constantly straining against the boundaries of a very strict patriarchal society. After getting "in trouble" at a young age, she devotes her life to ensuring that her twin sister will make a favorable marriage, thus securing their family's fortunes. Using alcohol to dull her pain eventually causes things to unravel and Tess runs away from the volatile family drama. Out on the road, Tess makes discoveries both personal and scientific that lead her to find peace within herself and a place in the larger world. The author skillfully weaves Tess's current adventures and her backstory, slowly revealing the rape, pregnancy, and subsequent death of her child-which led to her current pain and bitterness, while simultaneously describing her evolution into a strong female protagonist. Hartman tackles complex issues such as gender identity, rape culture, and a sex-positive outlook without including graphic sex scenes. Unfortunately, there are so many lessons to be learned, and they are so pervasive, this book reads more like an updated version of an allegorical fairy tale than like an epic fantasy adventure. The slow pacing will deter many of the genre's fans. VERDICT Additional purchase for larger libraries where character-driven fantasies are in demand or where the author is popular.-Sunnie Scarpa, Wallingford Public Library, CT © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* In her triumphant return to the world of Seraphina (2012), Hartman introduces Tess Dombegh, one of Seraphina's stepsiblings. After a shattering fall from grace, Tess has tried to be the dutiful daughter to her critical mother. She may never be good, but maybe she can be good enough to be forgiven. When Tess drunkenly ruins her sister's wedding night, she's almost relieved to run away. Disguised as a boy, she seeks oblivion on the road; instead, she's invited to help find a legendary serpent by her childhood friend, a quigutl (dragon subspecies). Along the way, Tess runs afoul of robbers, works as a manual laborer, poses as a priest, and struggles to make peace with past trauma. First in a duology, this is a perfect example of a familiar fantasy trope being given new dimension through empathetic characters and exquisite storytelling. At first appearing bitter and self-pitying, Tess reveals compassion, courage, and resilience on her journey, which is as emotional and spiritual as it is physical. This achingly real portrayal of a young woman whose self-loathing takes help to heal is a perceptive examination of rape culture rare in high fantasy. Not to be ignored, this is also a fascinating road trip adventure. Absolutely essential. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The publisher knows how much readers and critics loved Seraphina, so their heavy promotion plans and an author tour should stir up plenty of buzz.--Hutley, Krista Copyright 2017 Booklist