Book Review: 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.

The Queen of the Tearling introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen.

4 cupcakes

The Queen of the Tearling first came to my attention when I heard that Emma Watson was going to be playing the lead role in the movie – and the book wasn’t even out yet. After hearing countless comparisons to Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, I knew that I had to give it a try.

The Queen of the Tearling takes place in a somewhat-futuristic society that has regressed to the point where it is almost medieval. This setting was a rather strange blend, and I can’t help but think that it would have worked better as a strict medieval fantasy novel – even if the references to J.K. Rowling’s works made me smile a bit. That being said, the world-building and the brief bits of history that were mentioned are certainly intriguing, so I can’t wait to learn more about the Tear in future novels.

Our main character, Kelsea, was a fairly likeable narrator. While I did have some issues with her obsession with her appearance, Kelsea’s insecurities and uncertainties about being Queen endeared her to me. I loved how she was snarky, rational and a bibliophile, and her progression from a young girl to a strong young woman was wonderful to watch.

My main complaint about The Queen of the Tearling, though, is that its pacing was incredibly slow. The chapters were rather long, and there wasn’t a lot of action; rather, a lot of time is spent on the world-building and Kelsea’s introspective thoughts. I had no trouble enjoying the read despite this, but I can see it being an issue for some other readers.

The romance, for once, was an aspect that I would have liked to see more of. The mysterious Fetch is certainly an intriguing character, given his similarities to Robin Hood and his uncanny ability to show up at just the right moment.

Overall, The Queen of the Tearling was a well plotted beginning to an intriguing new fantasy series.

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  • I had the same thoughts about Kelsea. Despite her little whining about beauty, I really liked her. She was a solid character. I was happy that there was hardly no romance, but I’m interested what is going to happen with that aspect in the sequel. There is some potential romance.

    • I can’t wait to see how she grows over the course of the series – she definitely has the potential to be an amazing ruler. I’m really curious to see how the romance plays out; as long as it doesn’t overshadow the plot, I’m all for it!

  • I’ve heard so many mixed things about this book! There were so many different opinions of this book that I’m scared to buy it. I really feel like the book would have been better as a high fantasy series rather than a post apocalypse one. I really liked your review. It was very interesting.

    • It seems to be one of those books that you either really like or really don’t, based on other bloggers’ reviews; that being said, I’d recommend borrowing it from your local library if you’re wary about reading it. 🙂

      I definitely agree that it would have worked better as just a fantasy series instead of the hybrid that it was, but it should be interesting to see how the world is elaborated on from here.

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