Hartman returns to Goredd with the tale of another young woman who breaks the rules in search of herself.
There are three Dombegh sisters: naughty Tess, perfect twin Jeanne, and famous, talented older sister Seraphina (of Seraphina, 2012, and Shadow Scale, 2015). Now 17, haunted by past mistakes, immersed in self-denial and the need to follow “proper” behavior, white Tess—who once befriended lizardlike Quigutl and secretly attended lectures—is miserable. After drunkenly punching her new brother-in-law at Jeanne’s wedding, Tess dresses as a boy and takes off. She travels across Goredd and Ninys in search of a Quigutl prophecy and her own purpose in a sometimes-episodic tale narrated in descriptive, sharply observant third-person prose. Angry, bitter Tess has reason for her feelings but is not always easy to walk with, and the slow reveal of her past makes for a compelling read on the ways in which girls—in the quasi-Renaissance Goredd and also in the real world—are taught to take blame on themselves even when others are culpable. Fortunately, the Road has answers (“walk on”), and by the end Tess has faced her past and can look forward to another volume of adventure, discovery, and changing her world.
Like Tess’ journey, surprising, rewarding, and enlightening, both a fantasy adventure and a meta discourse on consent, shame, and female empowerment.(dramatis personae, glossary) (Fantasy. 13-adult)