In the Serpent’s Wake by: Rachel Hartman

I wasn’t aware this was a sequel until a decent way through the book which explained why I felt a little lost on some of the characters. That said, it’s a good book with big ideas but some of them may not have been enough justice because the author is white and may not have done enough work to really show how the issues in the book are really affecting the characters.

There are white savior themes, colonization, racism and how different races in the book benefit, fight against. One character is embedded as a spy to show the atrocities being committed by a ruling party and there are a lot of characters. The writing gets flowery, purple prose and long sentences that could have been shortened.

Now here’s where my issue comes in. We’ve got a biracial character who is brown. I think she’s read as brown and there’s some subtext I feel backs that up. However, even if she’s not brown, her very being, being biracial, means she will have a seriously different view of the racism and colonization taking place in the book. Instead of standing against it to keep her family’s rule of neutrality, she, well, stays neutral. But if I, as a biracial woman, witnessed half of my people being subjected to atrocities (and I do. Being Black in America is a struggle on so many terrifying levels) I would suffer so much internally. This character doesn’t seem to. She doesn’t seem to struggle with the violence being perpetrated. She can keep to her family’s rule of neutrality but it’s going to hurt her. Unless she views herself as one race and not the other in which case, her views would be different. But we don’t really get that heavy deep dive into her character and I would have appreciated that over the flowery words and sentences that dragged on. She does eventually realize she’s been burying it for a long time but…I wanted more. More introspection. I mean the chapters aren’t short at all so it wasn’t like there wasn’t room for it.

There is also a character who has issues with their gender. A dragon. I will say I love the mix of humans and dragons. It’s always refreshing to see them as more than just hoarding beasts who fly and can’t speak or are mindless beasts. Some tropes are tired. And seeing the character work through their identity was nice, I liked that.

Then there’s Tess and Jacomo and everything going on with them. Their relationship and his inability to actually help her while respecting her boundaries in a way that doesn’t lead to him overstepping. Add in the femenism aspects, this book has a lot going on and the length of it shows it.

I wasn’t aware it was a sequel, as I said and I’m not sure I’ll end up reading the first one but it was a good book if not for some things that made me feel a little…iffy. Three (3) stars.

Thanks to NEtgalley and the publisher I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Author. Reader. Reviewer. Interested in Sci-fi, Fantasy, and everything in between. Ya, and Adult. Looking for representaion where it matters! BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, everything! We all deserve stories!

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