The Queen of the Tearling // Erika Johansen.
“You win your people or you lose your throne.”
Actual Rating: 4/5 ⭐
Synopsis [From Goodreads]:
An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.
Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.
Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.
Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”
Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.
I had heard some mixed things about The Queen of the Tearling before picking it up so I wasn’t too sure if I was going to like it but once I started I honestly couldn’t put this book down, I had an itch for a type of fantasy that I didn’t even know I had and The Queen of the Tearling scratched it. The Queen of the Tearling is all about a young woman reclaiming her throne, it’s full of politics and learning what it means to rule but it’s also full of magic and scheming and swords and an evil queen.
Now I will admit – before I get into the singing of all my praises – that The Queen of the Tearling is a book you definitely need to be in the mood for. It is by no means a fast-paced book, there were some moments of action that had my heart pounding but the lulls between can get pretty big and the lulls are full of A LOT of decision making/scheming/thinking. The only point that I really found myself getting genuinely bored, and read faster so that I could move on, was whenever a lot of time was spent with the church. I just wanted to get back to Kelsea coming into her own or Thorne scheming or even whatever the Red Queen was up to because it was a lot more interesting than whatever a bunch of old men were talking about. Besides its slow moments it still flows nicely and my intrigue into the plot and characters kept me moving forward. The Queen of the Tearling reminds me of a cup of tea, the longer you wait while it steeps the better it’ll be (I like strong tea okay sue me) at the end and this story definitely picks up at the end of the book so for me it was worth it.
One of my favourite parts of The Queen of the Tearling was its characters, while some of the side characters really melt into the background all of the main characters SHINE. I loved Kelsea and found her to be such an interesting character, she can be sarcastic and a little impulsive but all of her decisions are based around genuinely doing what is best for her people. I loved that she remained strong and unflinching when it came to her decisions despite people telling her she was wrong. Since the story is all about her coming into her own and realizing what it means to be a queen we really get to see her grow throughout the novel, she goes from being almost a little naïve and filled with a few rosy fantasies to being quite mature. She also gains a lot of confidence in herself and her ability to rule, I liked that the book didn’t forget that she was only nineteen. Kelsea got to be self-conscious and a little worried but strong at the same time. Also plus one bonus point for being a reader. I was also really fond of Mace and the banter filled relationship that he and Kelsea had, he can be very steadfast but he also cares very deeply for those around him. For a minute I thought he was going to turn out to be the traitor and I was devastated because I loved him so much. I also found myself really enjoying the villains in The Queen of the Tearling, the Red Queen in particular I found so interestingly evil and I’m so intrigued by the persona that she fronts.
I’m in love with Erika Johansen’s writing, The Queen of the Tearling is a very complex story but it’s not written in an overly complex way and the world is so rich like every little thing has been thought of. The world building also reminds me of steeping tea again because there’s no info dumping everything at once instead it was like the longer I spent in the story the more things were revealed, you kind of learn things as Kelsea learns them or as her past lessons become relevant. I also don’t think that I’ve read a fantasy book quite like this one, for all intents and purposes The Queen of the Tearling is your run of the mill medieval fantasy on the surface but underneath it’s actually a medieval/dystopian blend. The Queen of the Tearling is set a couple hundred years or so after an event called the Crossing, where people from the world as we know it sail across a new sea and discover an entirely new continent. There they had planned to start a sort of utopian society but things go wrong when they lose their doctors and medicine and a lot of technology in the Crossing which sends them back into a medieval era. We get a world where they’re literally fighting each other with swords and maces AND Harry Potter exists and they actively read it in the story, like, sign me up. On top of that there’s all sorts of little bits of Tear history since the Crossing and the navigating of relationships with other countries and some MAGIC woven into the story, it’s honestly just all so interesting and so nicely crafted.
However, one of the things that I found quite frustrating was that nobody would tell Kelsea ANYTHING, I understand why it was written like this and I did enjoy experiencing all the revelations along with Kelsea but it got to a point where I was just so annoyed. Carlin, Barty and the Queen’s Guard keep so much from Kelsea and a lot of it is under the guise of “keeping her mother’s secrets” or Kelsea just doesn’t need to know which pissed me off because she’s supposed to RULE the country and they were keeping extremely important things about her kingdom from her. It makes sense to keep her mother’s personal secrets a secret to an extent but at some point they just have to GET OVER IT, Kelsea is the queen start telling her things.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I ended up enjoying The Queen of the Tearling, I liked the politics and the decision making and just Kelsea herself so much that it made up for slowness. I don’t think this is a YA book but it’s also not Game of Thrones level high fantasy, it’s a really nice middle ground that has all the same elements that I love in YA fantasy just a little more mature and more focus on what it actually takes to rule. It’s also not overly complicated and a pretty easy read so I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a more political fantasy.
| Harper | Published July 8th 2014 | 448 Pages | Goodreads |