May 11, 2022

ARC REVIEW: In the Serpent's Wake (Tess of the Road #2) by Rachel Hartman

In the Serpent's Wake (Tess of the Road #2) by Rachel Hartman
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Release Date: February 1, 2022
Format: eARC (NetGalley and TBR and Beyond Tours)
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Check out my review of the first book in the series, Tess of the Road

Check out my original promo post!

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Rachel Hartman’s In the Serpent’s Wake is another powerful young adult fantasy read. Educational, entertaining, and thought-provoking - this book is not for the faint of heart or those looking for a light fun read. Events pick up immediately after the ending of the first book Tess of the Road, and it’s just as action-packed.  

From the very start, the book was entertaining. I appreciate the recap that was provided in the prologue (and how it was written in verse). Coming up with that many rhymes must have been tiring. Ms. Hartman’s writing style throughout the book was quite engaging and interesting; it was fun to piece the different viewpoints together. As an avid fantasy reader, the expanded worldbuilding was another highlight of In the Serpent’s Wake (it’s always an adventure to get to travel off the edges of the map, in a sense). There were times when the main plot (finding the Polar Serpent) got lost in the numerous subplots, but it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the book too much. 

Tess’ story continues to be one of resilience and determination. She’s had so much go wrong in her life, but she continues to persist and keep moving forward. There’s no doubt she’s deeply flawed and that her past trauma (rape and infant loss) has colored her experiences but I think the author handled things well. There were some very emotional moments in the book (i.e. when a certain ex reappears), but it felt like most of her character arc was covered in the first book. 

Another issue that Ms. Hartman tackled in this book is gender identity. A particularly powerful quote from the book on this subject was “One shouldn’t have to change for anyone else’s comfort; to demand such was tyranny.” Gender fluid and non-binary characters are also embraced in this world (to an extent), as the quigutls and dragons are known for using the gender-neutral pronoun ko and gender transitions are not uncommon for not quigutls. For example, the dragon scholar Spira is non-binary and Pathka transitioned from female to male. 

Altogether, In the Serpent’s Wake is another fantastic fantasy novel by Rachel Hartman. It’s unclear whether this will be the end of Tess’ storyline (the ending seemed to wrap things up nicely, but the author seemed to leave some threads open for future stories), but I would happily read any stories set in this world in the future. I think a spin-off based on Countess Marga and her adventures would be a great addition. 

Thank you to the author, Random House Books for Young Readers, the team at TBR and Beyond Tours, and NetGalley for my complimentary review copy of the book. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review In the Serpent’s Wake immensely. Please note - I voluntarily read and reviewed In the Serpent’s Wake. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and not influenced in any way. 

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Rape, Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Underage Drinking, Sex Shaming, Drunkenness, Infant Loss, Gaslighting

About the Author

Rachel Hartman is the author of three young adult fantasy novels: SERAPHINA, SHADOW SCALE, and TESS OF THE ROAD. Her fourth novel, IN THE SERPENT’S WAKE, will be published February 1st, 2022. Her novels have been on the New York Times bestseller list and have received many awards, including the Morris Award, the Sunburst Prize, and the Monica Hughes Award. Rachel lives in Vancouver, BC, with her husband and whippet.

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