Mini Reviews: Tess of the Road, Daughter of the Burning City, & The Game of Love and Death

Posted July 30, 2019 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

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I know I rarely do mini reviews (read: never) but every once and a while, I do humor myself and re-read a book that I’ve read before.  For posts like these, I don’t think that a unique, standing review is strictly necessary.  After all, I’ve already outlined all the good stuff about these novels.  However, experiences differ between an initial read vs. a reread, and I still want to talk about these books.

To solve the repeat-book dilemma, I’ve decided that every time I collect 3 re-reads, I’m going to give y’all a set of mini reviews!  Not as much of a commitment as a full review, but still lovely to revisit old favorites.

Today, I’m bringing mini reviews for Tess of the Road, Daughter of the Burning City, and The Game of Love and Death.

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Mini Reviews:  Tess of the Road, Daughter of the Burning City, & The Game of Love and Death

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Digital Audiobook narrated by Katharine McEwan

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on February 27, 2018
Series: Tess of the Road #1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dragons
Length: 544 pages or 16 hours, 15 minutes
Source: Audible

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five-stars

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl—a subspecies of dragon—who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.


When I first read Tess of the Road, I was absolutely enamored of it.  There are so many subtle themes to this book that aren’t in most fantasy… but more than it all, I loved Tess.  Reading a book in different formats can have different results, so I worried a little that I wouldn’t love it as much.

Absolute foolishness. I love everything Tess Dombegh and I am here for this book again and again and again.  It was such a treat to come back to Tessie and experience her exhaustion and pain and hope all over again.  The re-read cemented this book even more firmly into my all time favorites.  It’s the type of book that I want to pick apart and discuss the minutia.

I can still appreciate how this book won’t work for everyone – it’s admittedly slow paced and the struggles internalized… which is somewhat less sensational than external struggle… but I think it’s still a beautiful, inspirational story.  I chuckled and I cried and I still love this book so much.

For a longer, more detailed review, you can refer to my original review.

The Breakdown
Plot
five-stars
Characters
five-stars
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
five-stars
Setting
five-stars
Narrator
four-stars
Personal Enjoyment
five-stars
Overall: five-stars
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Mini Reviews:  Tess of the Road, Daughter of the Burning City, & The Game of Love and Death

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Hardcover

Published by Harlequin Teen on July 25, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery
Length: 384 pages Source: FairyLoot

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four-stars

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.


I still genuinely enjoyed reading Daughter of the Burning City, but it didn’t wow me as much as my first read through.  I think a lot of that has to do with having more experience with Amanda Foody’s writing style.  I still think that Gomorrah is an incredibly crafted world, and I love all the Illusions and Sorina.  Where it falls short for me is in pacing and plot – there was so much build up in the story that the ending seemed to fall a bit flat.

Another qualm I still have with this one is the general tone of the ending… and this was something I picked up the first time as well.  Daughter of the Burning City has a very vibrant cast and world, and the way the story ends has a promise of a new beginning, and I feel so unfulfilled with the last chapter. I don’t think Sorina has any more of a story to tell, but I think that the next chapter in this world belongs to Nicoleta, and there’s a third chapter that belongs to Hawk.  From my recollection, Amanda Foody has no intention of returning to this world, and she’s in the middle of another trilogy right now, so I don’t expect to see a continuation.  And it kills me a bit, because Daughter of the Burning City is so good in so many ways.

It was really wonderful to revisit Sorina and the Freak Show, and this book is definitely still a keeper for me.  I’ll read it again sometime in the future, when I need a little murder and magic.  But I finished it feeling a bit unsatisfied.

For more details and a lot of squeeing, you can check out my original review here.

The Breakdown
Plot
three-half-stars
Characters
five-stars
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Setting
five-stars
Personal Enjoyment
four-half-stars
Overall: four-stars
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Mini Reviews:  Tess of the Road, Daughter of the Burning City, & The Game of Love and Death

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Hardcover

Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on April 28, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Historical Fiction, Romance, LGBTQ
Length: 329 pages Source: ThriftBooks

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleBook DepositoryIndieBound

four-half-stars

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.


The Game of Love and Death enthralled me the first time I read it, and in re-reads, I feel the same way. Martha Brockenbrough does not write a lot of fiction like this – she has a couple historical non-fiction works – and I would love to read another fable like this one.  Her writing still strikes me as achingly beautiful, and the story is so unique.  It bothers me that so few people are aware of this book, because it’s gorgeous.  It’s easy to fall in love with her writing.

If I had to condemn one thing, it’s that the middle gets a bit slow.  The chapters are short, but as the players are moving into position, there’s a lot of waiting.  But it’s still good.  I almost don’t mind because her words are like honey and the music and the message outside of the plot is so beautiful.  I also really like the formatting of the book – it’s different and nice looking.  Plus a tale of polar opposites always gets me.

Really, I can’t emphasize enough how gorgeous this book is.  There’s flowery language like in Shatter Me, and then there’s evocative language that summons jazz night clubs and a cigar smoke haze and the slow sway of Chicago summer that are beautiful without trying and just… aaghh.  I love it.

My opinion of the book is still strongly positive, but you can read the original review here.

The Breakdown
Plot
five-stars
Characters
five-stars
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
three-half-stars
Setting
five-stars
Personal Enjoyment
four-half-stars
Overall: four-half-stars
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All three of these books were indulgent re-reads for me, and I was so excited to revisit these words and give the books themselves a little more screen time on the blog.  All three are books I really enjoyed overall even on a second read.  I recommend all three highly!

Also – Daughter of the Burning City and The Game of Love and Death were both reads for the 2019 Reading Rush, and it was so much fun!  I’ve got the wrap up coming to you on Saturday.  I’m really grateful to the readathon for pushing me to pick up a couple books I’ve wanted to re-read for a while.

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Do you prefer in-depth reviews, or short ones?  For me, I think it depends on what I’m looking for.  I’ll skim reviews looking for key points (that’s why I bold things!) but if I’m really on the fence, I love the comprehensive reviews.  I also like writing more comprehensive ones.  Tell me how you like your reviews in the comments!

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2 responses to “Mini Reviews: Tess of the Road, Daughter of the Burning City, & The Game of Love and Death

  1. Okay, that’s it, I’ve been on the fence about it for a while, but I’m adding Game of Love and Death to my tbr

    And ahhh I’m so glad you loved Tess just as much a second time around! It’s truly such a spectacular book, and I still can’t get over just how good it was