Author: Erika Johansen
Published: July 2014
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins
I first mentioned my excitement at finding The Queen of the Tearling in this post. I have been on a big fantasy kick lately and was excited by the premise of this book despite my recent desire to distance myself from Young Adult a bit.
The first novel in a new YA fantasy series, The Queen of the Tearling follows 19 year old Kelsea, a girl who is heir a throne she’s only known through her studies. For her protection, Kelsea has been raised by foster parents since she was a baby and has never had any interaction with other people. When her 19th birthday comes, her time in hiding is at an end and Kelsea must travel back to her rightful kingdom (Tear) with a Queens Guard she’s never met. Along the way, Kelsea finds herself in plenty of trouble and learns that her problems are much greater than just regaining the throne from her greedy and misguided uncle of a reagent. Along her journey, Kelsea meets Mace, a formidable warrior and devoted member of the Queen’s Guard. Mace is helpful yet guarded. Kelsea isn’t sure what to make of Mace, but she knows he is irreplaceable. The Fetch is a mysterious man who has a legendary reputation but who’s identity is constantly concealed. Early on in her journey to the kingdom, Kelsea is rescued by the Fetch and finds herself instantly intrigued by his mysterious nature.
One of Kelsea’s greatest challenges is dealing with the Mort Queen—an almost mythical Queen from the neighboring kingdom. The Mort Queen is known for her lack of kindness and stern expectations. Kelsea must carefully negotiate how her kingdom interacts with the Mort Queen in order to ensure the safety of her people. Within her own kingdom, Kelsea learns that she must battle with religious leaders, corrupt members of the upper class and the overwhelming weight of her people who have grown fearful and restless with the current affairs of the reagent.
What sets Kelsea apart and makes her the rightful heir of the kingdom is a unique scar on her arm and two beautiful sapphire jewels. While the jewelry initially appears to be a formality, Kelsea quickly learns that the jewels have a more direct purpose.
This book was pleasantly surprising for me. I hadn’t read any of the reviews prior to reading the book myself, though I instantly saw where people would compare this novel to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I enjoyed that the world was a unique blend of medieval style living with a post apocalyptic sort of world. All we know is that the world Kelsea lives in is that her world was shaped by a revolutionary named William Tearling who abandoned what we would consider modern day America/European society for a utopian setting. For a Young Adult title, this book had a fair amount of violence, sex and crude characters. While this strays a bit from the norm, it was refreshing to read a YA title that pushed the boundaries of the genre. While the writing style and plot are quite different from Martin’s GoT, I can see where this could be marketed to readers who are curious about GoT but don’t want as violent or massive of a read. Johansen writing skill is not as masterful as Martin’s (few writers are), but the story moves along quite well.
My one major criticism of the story is that Kelsea seems to adapt to being around other people rather quickly for someone who has grown up in seclusion. She does struggle to make decisions, but it seems unlikely that someone would take on such a huge responsibility as regaining a throne without some sense of anxiety or fear. Still, I appreciated that Kelsea has a take charge attitude and that she isn’t afraid to take on responsibilities.
The next installment in the Queen of the Tearling series continues with The Invasion of the Tearling due out in July 2015.