Sunday, 3 August 2014

Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen
Publisher: Bantam Press
Released: 17th July 2014
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother - Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid - was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea's uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea's 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother's guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...

And so begins her journey back to her kingdom's heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother's legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive...
(from Goodreads)

The Queen of the Tearling was an odd book. There were a lot of conflicting things going on and some world-building that didn't quite make sense, but I enjoyed a fair few parts of it and will probably read the next book in the series.

Kelsea was a character that had to grow on me. At first she was very naive, and it was frustrating that she hadn't been told anything about the kingdom and what was happening, because it meant that she was stuck being a bit useless. And she was SO obsessed with appearance. Every other chapter was her commenting on people's looks; she seemed to value beauty above everything else and judged people who weren't beautiful, and it really just got on my nerves. And this is unrelated to the book, really, but Kelsea was described as being plain looking and a little bit chubby (which was emphasised a LOT throughout the book) and yet who has been cast to play Kelsea in the film version? Emma Watson. EMMA WATSON. One of the most beautiful people ever. Can you imagine anyone ever saying "you're too plain for me" to EMMA WATSON? How are they going to portray this in the film? Poor casting choice. But back on topic, I did start to like Kelsea more when she was settling into her role as Queen of the Tearling. I mean, you sort of had to respect her after she went through her whole crowning ceremony with a knife literally in her shoulder blade the entire time. She absolutely refused to halt the ceremony, she was determined to carry on and show her dedication. Props to her for not passing out. And she did seem to want to make a real change to the kingdom and genuinely cared about her people. She was definitely not like her mother at all, and wasn't afraid to take action. It made me really curious about who her father was, but that was one of the biggest secrets in the book so I'm guessing we won't find out for a while.

Mace was one of Kelsea's guards, and he was a very mysterious man. At first, he didn't think Kelsea would amount to much, but you could tell that she had surpassed his expectations and in the end he was very loyal to her. He offered a lot of good advice but was oddly silent on certain matters as well. Kelsea clearly trusted him with her life but I do wish we could have found out more about him. I'm sure more will be revealed in future books, but until then, he secrets will remain hidden.

The Fetch was a notorious thief and in my opinion, very creepy. Kelsea however seemed smitten with him for reasons unknown because he wasn't particularly nice to her. I guess this was the beauty trumps everything card being played again. He wasn't in the book much, but something big was always happening when he showed up. He was intriguing, if I'm honest, and I probably would enjoy learning more about him in the next book.

The world-building had me very confused. I had no idea this was a post-apocalyptic/dystopian (?) novel until about a third of the way in. It seemed like a fantasy from days of old, but nope, apparently this was set hundreds of years into the future. I have no idea why on earth everything would revert to such a disgustingly unequal and corrupt society, or how all technology was lost. There was no explanation, and while I get this was the first book in a series, it has to at least be believable. This book reminded me a bit of The Selection; why would advanced democratic societies suddenly go back to absolute monarchies? It didn't make sense. What was the aim? How did the people accept such a thing? How was the monarchy even chosen? Surely not the old "divine right of kings"? The world they all lived in was just awful with terrible things happening all the time and while I was happy that Kelsea wanted to change things, I don't really get how she expected to produce an equal society when she was the absolute ruler of everything and the people were her "subjects", completely under her power, and subsequently the power of the next monarch. It was just weird.

Plot-wise, the beginning started off slow, but once Kelsea became Queen, things got more interesting. Kelsea's actions meant a war was brewing with the Red Queen of Mortmesne and this books was mainly about making preparations for future battles, though there was some fighting towards the end which marked the beginning of it. I liked quite a few of Kelsea's chapters, and how she dealt with her horrible excuse for a human being uncle, but I did find a few other points of view, such as Javel's, boring. He was a flat side character that I didn't really care about because he wasn't very well fleshed out, and therefore his "sad" back story didn't really invoke any sympathy from me. I kind of just skimmed his chapters and I wasn't really concerned about his role in things.

Overall, I had a lot of issues with The Queen of the Tearling, but I'd say it was worth reading. The overall story was engaging and I'm hoping future books will offer more explanation on the world and the characters.

(Side note: don't you just love the cover and how awesome and fitting it is?)


  1. I had a lot of the same issues with this one as you, but ultimately it won me over in the end and I do also plan to return for the sequel. Kelsea definitely has to grow on you, but I do like that she's flawed. And casting Emma seems like a poor casting decision to me as well... I bet they'll try to make her look "Hollywood ugly" which means basically she'll look like regular Hermione rather than Yule Ball Hermione. In other words, there will be very little difference at all >_<

  2. The cover makes me think of a steam punk novel.

    I like the premise of this one, but, you're right, it totally does sound like a fantasty from hundreds of years ago. That's so odd. I hope the second book gives you more answers on the world building front!


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