Another of the Hugo-adjacent books, this time because Tess of the Road is nominated for the Lodestar Award, the not-a-Hugo for YA books - not the first book I've read by this writer, as I'd read both Seraphina and its sequel but apparently long enough ago to remember very little about it...
Tess of the Road is set in the same universe, with Seraphina's younger half-sister as the eponymous main character, a girl whose every decision seems to lead to trouble of one kind or another. When we first meet Tess, she's still trying to get over a disastrous first relationship and the loss of an illegitimate baby, for which latter event her judgemental mother seems to think she should be grateful. Tess is also hip-deep in trying to sort things out for her twin sister, both in terms of running interference with their mother and organising her present and future life. That, at least, gives her little time to think about the mess she finds herself in and how much she's drinking to try and cope with it.
Matters eventually come to a head when Tess discovers that her childhood friend, a dragon-like creature called Pathka, is being held captive and forced to work creating gadgets. Helping him escape, the two go on the run in search of a creature Pathka says is one of seven World Serpents, creatures both humans and dragons have ulterior motives to find first. Along the way, Tess comes to terms with both her own personality and history, while demonstrating she is not as Bad as her mother would have her believe.
One thing I really liked about Tess of the Road was the supporting characters we meet along the way, as they didn't slot into neat categories in the way that happens with some books. Sometimes you can tell how important a character is going to be to the overall story by the way they're introduced and this book avoids that. Tess is, of course, not the most reliable of narrators and at times this becomes a little annoying as she goes into yet another self-critical spiral.
If I have any complaints about Tess of the Road, it's about how the book ends - I would have ended it a little earlier, with Tess addressing her relationships with her sisters and then setting out for her next adventure. Taking matters a little further, to me, seemed to make it more incomplete, as if it was a more arbitrary stopping point rather than a conscious decision. Hence the 4 star rating, as it annoyed me a bit, as well as the heavy-handed sense of potential romance touted at the end, which always annoys me.