Friday, September 25, 2015

Book Review // Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

“You win your people or you lose your throne.”

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen

Published by Harper Collins
Genres: Young Adult, Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Pages: 464

My Rating: ★★★★★

A young woman.
A kingdom.
An evil enemy.
A birthright foretold . . .

With the arrival of her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn is ascending to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling. Surrounded by enemies, including an evil sorceress possessed of dark magic, the young ruler stands little chance of success. But Kelsea possesses fearsome weapons of her own, including the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic. As an epic war draws near, Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny begins—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend...if she can survive.

Teisha's Review

The current consensus on Erika Johansen's The Queen of the Tearling is that you either love it (irrevocably) or you hate it (irrefutably) -- there is no in-between.  I felt really conflicted about whether I would pick this one up; there are so many 1-star reviews on Goodreads, and then there are a plethora of 5-star reviews.  Those who hate it claim that it's boring, that it lacks adventure and excitement, that it's too slow, or that it's not even worth finishing.  And then there are those who thought that this book was absolutely amazing.  Guess what?  

I happen to fall into the latter camp.

Here are the five reasons why I gave The Queen of the Tearling 5 out of 5 stars:

★ Kelsea, The Queen of the Tearling

Bow down, bitches.  The Queen has arrived and she's not here to play games.

You guys!  I really really loved Kelsea's character.  She's probably my third favorite fantasy heroine (right behind 1. Celaena Sardothien and 2. Kestrel Trajan).  Kelsea is so badass and sassy, and she takes shit from no one.  But, she is also incredibly wise, humble, and caring.  Plus, she loves to read.  (She's a Harry Potter fan so she gets bonus points.)

I think that Kelsea's character is so interesting because she's lived this sheltered life, hidden away in the woods and raised by two members of her mother's court, and then she's thrust into the real world and forced to make all of these difficult decisions on behalf of an entire kingdom.  (I mean, I can't even decide what to wear in the mornings or what kind of job I want, for crying out loud.)  And, while she takes advice from others, ultimately she makes her own decisions.  Then there is the fact that this teenage girl is basically handed over to a group of men (very hot men) who have been tasked with protecting her and, as such, she has to deal with hormones and crushes and becoming super self-conscious of her body and how she looks.  (I definitely remember what it was like when I started noticing boys.  But Kelsea's situation is that x10 because all the guys around her are men.  Not just men -- soldiers.  So they are a gazillion times hotter than any of the brace-faced, pimply kids I used to swoon over.)

I think that all readers will be able to relate to Kelsea on some level, whether it's the way she struggles to understand her place in the world, or the way she struggles with love and feelings.  Kelsea isn't proud, she isn't beautiful.  She is kind and smart.  She's a queen who strives for justice.  But, she's also just a girl.  And, Johansen reminds us of that fact all throughout the story.

★ The Queen's Merry Band of Misfits

Now, about those very hot men...

Most of the men in Kelsea's Guard are much too old for her; she admits that they are attractive, but she is not attracted to them.  And yet, Johansen has made them all lovable in their own way.  I find it very telling that there are over a dozen male characters in this book, there's no romance, and yet I'm still swooning.  That's good writing, folks!

I love bromances, and while we don't see much of the guard's perspectives in the story, Johansen is still able to paint a picture of their unbreakable bond.  They work as a unit, always in sync, always working towards the same goal -- to keep Kelsea alive.  I love them as a whole, but I also have my favorites...

My favorite of the Queen's Guard is Lazarus, also known as the Mace (named after his weapon of choice).  We see Mace a lot more than the other guards because he is the Captain of the Queen's Guard, and this is likely why I favor him.  He's this hulking figure who's intimidating and viciously dangerous, and yet he has a soft side when it comes to Kelsea.  He's kind of like a father figure to Kelsea.  He acts like a parent, too; he's always trying to speak for her and is quick to tell her when she's wrong (which can be kind of annoying at times).  But, Kelsea is more than able to hold her own against him and I love to see her put him in his place.  All in all, they make a really good team.

And then there's Pen, my little cinnamon roll.  Okay, in reality he's actually rather deadly.  He's the best swordsman in the Queen's Guard.  But, I just want to hug him and be his friend, okay?  Pen is the youngest member of the Queen's Guard at 30 years old (so that gives you an idea of how old the other guys are).  He gets appointed as Kelsea's personal bodyguard, so they end up spending a lot of time together.  They become really good friends, and I love watching their friendship bloom.  Honestly, if Kelsea were to be involved in a romantic relationship with anyone in the story, I would guess that it would be Pen.  But, I'm really terrible at predicting things.  (I called Rowaelin, though.  From the very beginning.  But that's another story for another review.)

Finally, I saved the best for last:  The Fetch.  Now, the Fetch isn't a member of the Queen's Guard, but he's a really interesting character (who I imagine to be very gorgeous).  The Fetch is this incredibly mysterious and alluring outlaw who makes Kelsea feel all tingly inside.  What I love the most about his character is that no one knows who he is!  When he goes around beating up bad guys (which also makes him really awesome, although we don't know what his intentions or motives are) he wears a mask.  So, in a way he's kind of like a superhero.  I can't wait for his identity to be revealed.

★ World Building

What's unique about the world of The Queen of the Tearling is that the story takes place in the future, but our culture has regressed.  There is no more technology -- no cars, cell phones, or television.  No, no, we have gone back to the good ol' days where people rode horses, wrote letters, and read books as a main source of entertainment.

Um, I absolutely love this idea?  A lot of readers have considered this world to be unrealistic.  Why would we just abandon technology?  And, to make matters worse for those readers, Johansen doesn't tell us right away how the world has come to be like this.  But, my dear readers -- patience is a virtue.  Johansen feeds us kernels of information about her world to keep us satiated; she doesn't feed us the entire pie all at once, and that's fine.  We know that there was a Crossing from America to Europe, and during that Crossing a lot of technology and knowledge was lost.  But, why did we cross from America?  What happened over there?  That's all a part of the intrigue.

Personally, I found the world of the Tearling to be very vivid and well-crafted.

★ Politics

In a treaty with the Tearling, the Red Queen of Mortmesne (our antagonist) demanded that a shipment of 250 Tearling slaves be sent to her country every month.  Otherwise, she would invade the Tearling.  But, when Kelsea arrives, she's just like "Nah.  We're not gonna do that anymore" (not a direct quote).  And so, everything is thrown out of whack in the Tearling and in Mortmesne because this 19-year-old girl simply said "No."  Props to Kelsea.  I love it!

After that, everyone starts maneuvering and plotting.  Shit hits the fan basically.  There are characters who live in the Tearling and fear the Red Queen, so they try to go against Kelsea's ruling.  There are good guys who become bad guys, and bad guys who become good guys -- everything is complex, nothing is black and white.  And, what I love most about the politics of this book is that the stakes feel real.  The Red Queen has immense power, and the last time she invaded the Tearling it wasn't pretty.  Readers are constantly reminded of that, reminded of how dangerous this game is that Kelsea must play.

We really only skimmed the surface of court politics with this book, but I'm excited to delve deeper into the Tearling's political drama in The Invasion of the Tearling.  

★ Mystery

As I've already touched on, there are so many questions raised in The Queen of the Tearling.  I think that the most important questions stem from the story's magic system.  We see the Red Queen making blood sacrifices and performing dark magic.  And then there is Kelsea, in possession of a family jewel that seems to speak and react to her, and send her visions of danger.  What is this jewel?  How did it come to be?  And what exactly is that dark creature that that Red Queen summoned?  I'm soooooooo intrigued.

And then there's the question of who Kelsea's father is.  It's this big mystery that will likely shine a light on her identity as the True Queen as well as her magical abilities.  I believe that either the Mace or the Fetch will turn out to be her dad.  (Although, it would be really weird if the Fetch was her father because she has a crush on him.......)  Like I said, I'm really bad at this predicting thing.


The Queen of the Tearling is a beautifully written story about a young queen's mission to reestablish her crumbling country, and I could not put it down!

I haven't picked up The Invasion of the Tearling yet, but that's definitely on my TBR list.  I can't wait to see where this series goes.  The writing is flawless and engrossing, the world building is on point, and the characters are so real.

Yay for you if you read this entire review!  (It's pretty long, not gonna lie.)

Bow Before the True Queen

  1. Have you read the Queen of the Tearling?  Did you enjoy it as much as I did?  
  2. Who is your favorite member of the Queen's Guard?  Tell me your thoughts!  

Thanks for reading!

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