Today, I’m sharing an overdue review of The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I read this novel over the summer completely on a whim, thinking it was a young adult book. How wrong I was:
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.
I’ll give this fantasy novel four out of five stars.
All in all, I don’t consider myself to be a fantasy buff. I’ve read the Harry Potter series and A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve read Outlander. Pair this with L’s vast knowledge of high fantasy books, and I pale in comparison. That said, I saw this book on a few blogs and decided to give it a try with zero expectations. What a pleasant surprise.
Our protagonist is a young adult with a conscience and something to prove. She is surrounded by likable and unlikable characters, and bares both her insecurity and her strength to her reader. I like Kelsea as a character for her ignorance; we learn things along with her, discover her family history as she does, are bewildered by her skills along with her.
Ultimately, seeing Kelsea come into her own and take control of her kingdom is rewarding. That said, her do-gooder, hardline approach is naive, and frustrating at times. There is a lack of depth in her anger and assessments of others in The Queen of the Tearling that is disappointing, but as this is the first in a trilogy, I’m hopeful that her character will expand.
Onto plot: this book is pretty linear. Kelsea is taken to her kingdom. She overthrows her uncle. She develops allies and enemies. People defy her. She overcomes them. Peppered in here and there is violence and magic, but while it is linear, this story is also unfamiliar. This redeems The Queen of the Tearling and separates it from other books.
What truly sets this book apart from other fantasy that I’ve read is its orientation to current life. Many fantasy novels involving magic and castles and royalty are set in other worlds entirely, or in a medieval time period. Not Queen of the Tearling. This book is set in the future, after technology has been lost. Much of the discussion of why the Tear is the way it is teases at history, and that promises to be interesting in future books.