April 7, 2014

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen


On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.

I have to say I really enjoyed this unique novel.  It felt like reading historical fiction sometimes and then all of the sudden - BAM! - it would throw in a reminder that this is not the past at all, but a new land that was discovered and that has sort of reverted back into a historical-like world. That's because of the loss of so much during the crossing (to the new land), including most of the doctors, modern conveniences, even books.  It is like reading a dystopian and a historical novel all rolled into one.  Oh, and there is magic.   It is a very unique perspective that I cannot quite figure out how to put into words, but I'll try.  

Now, the publisher wants you to think that this world is as terrifying as the world of The Hunger Games.  I didn't find that to be true in the least.  While some seriously shady stuff is going on, much to Kelsea's shock as she comes out of hiding, it did not feel as terrifying as The Hunger Games.  Perhaps because the characters are all slightly removed from the situation and the shady stuff is not actually happening to them but to other people.  (I don't want to tell you what the shady stuff is because that is one of the major plot points.)

With that said, Kelsea is a force to be reckoned with.  She has never been in society yet she has this innate sense of honor and compassion and sense of justice in her.  Whether this works to her advantage or she is too naive and stupid to lead is the big question of the book.  Her mother was a huge disappointment as a queen and her uncle, who has been acting as regent since her mother died and until Kelsea came of age, has been the bane of the Tearling's existence.  Not great role models for running a kingdom by any means.  Her people need a real leader and Kelsea has no experience at all and has been living in a cottage with 2 people her whole life.  How in the world is she going to fix the shady stuff happening all around her?

The only problem I had with the galley was in the beginning of the story once the Guard picks her up there were some comments and thoughts by Kelsea that were in opposition to things that were just stated. Hopefully this is taken care of in the final copy of the book.  Get past that part and it will be worth it. 

I recommend this book to anyone who:

  • enjoys a good coming-of-age story
  • is interested in a blend of dystopian world and magic
  • likes a good royal intrigue (even if you've never heard of said royals)
  • finds an original heroine and original secondary characters refreshing

**Note that these quotes come from an advanced copy 
and may change in the final version of the book.**

"The Fetch threw back his head and roared with laughter.  He placed a friendly hand on Kelsea's back, making her skin prickle.  'Tear Queen, you'll either be dead within a week or you'll be the most fearsome ruler this kingdom has ever known.  I see no middle ground."

"But (Father) Tyler knew that history was everything.  The future was only the disasters of the past, waiting to happen anew."

" (He saw) an evil born of lack of self-awareness, an evil that didn't know it was evil and therefore could justify anything.  Evil that did the math."

*I received this book for review from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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