Review of In the Serpent’s Wake

In the Serpent’s Wake In the Serpent’s Wake
by Rachel Hartman
High School    Random    512 pp.    g
2/22    978-1-101-93132-5    $18.99
Library ed.  978-1-101-93133-2    $21.99
e-book ed.  978-1-101-93134-9    $10.99

In this sequel to Tess of the Road (rev. 3/18), Tess must get her beloved quigutl friend, Pathka, to the Polar Serpent for healing. She’s also on a spying mission for her Goreddi monarch, so she insinuates herself into a Ninysh voyage of scientific discovery aiming to find the Serpent. The journey progresses through a vast archipelago colonized by the Ninysh, who have displaced and tried to crush the varied cultures and knowledges of the islands’ many indigenous peoples. But Tess’s quest depends on the expertise of many of those peoples, and both she and the voyage’s aristocratic scientist leader are forced to examine their imperialist complicity as they learn to heed indigenous voices and claims. This is but one of many currents in this timely, challenging work, with its vital questioning of cultural superiority and of assumptions about heterogeneity—in culture, gender, and physicality. Conceptually rich, serious, emotionally complex; a worthy addition to Hartman’s already considerable achievement.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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