Tess of the Road

Tess, a lady-in-waiting at court, has a "whiff of scandal" about her. So it's up to her sweet, mild, virtuous sister, Jeanne, to marry and save the family. Since it was discovered that their father's first wife was a dragon in human form, he was stripped of his license to practice law and the family has suffered much ill fortune. When the eligible Lord Richard proposes to Jeanne, Tess dares to hope that "[a]fter... years at court, diligently securing her family's future," she might be set free. But Mama wants to send her to a convent and, after Tess makes a horrible, drunken mess of Jeanne's wedding, the abhorrent plan becomes Tess's only apparent option.

That is, until Tess is given a pair of fine leather boots that "[seem] to be a suggestion": she runs off to a distant city to make a new start as a seamstress. On the way, she meets up with her old best friend, the "lizardy" quigutl (a subspecies of dragon) named Pathka, who is on a journey of his own. Pathka's quest is an old dream of Tess, and the two agree to adventure together. Eager to be rid of her past, Tess disguises herself and desperately tries to keep the unbidden voice of her mother out of her head.

Tess of the Road, first in a duology, is a companion book to Seraphina and Shadow Scale, which introduced Tess's half-dragon half sister. Fully human Tess's life has been constrained by shame and the medieval expectations of others. Her growing awareness of the inequality and unfairness she has been subjected to, along with an unfolding sense of herself and her potential, will captivate any reader. Tess's ultimately unquenchable spirit and her struggles and adventures are a delight. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

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