Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the TearlingThe Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Published by: HarperCollins on July 8, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Pages: 448
Source: BookExpo America
Book Details
Rating: ★★★★½

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.

The Queen of the Tearling was fantastic! It’s a perfect read if you’re into some high fantasy where you have a female who KICKS ASS!

Kelsea, I swear fealty to you

Kelsea was a fantastic main character. There’s nothing not to like about her. She’s fair, just, imperfect, gets her hands dirty, and a natural queen. She could be fierce and demanding, but always for good (just) reasons. I loved how she wasn’t the kind of queen to sit up in her ivory tower and send her warriors to do her work. She actually got in there and made things happen. She went right into the fray if necessary, knife and all. I felt like I was ready to bow down and swear loyalty to this fictional character!

I also love how she was constantly described as being a bit plain, and even a little chubby. It just made her seem like that much more epic of a queen.

The story and its characters never bored me. I loved the different points of view, the political scandal, and the outrageously dressed nobles. I thought all the characters were really interesting, especially the thief we meet in the beginning (Fetch) and Kelsea’s epicly fierce captain of the guard (Mace).

What is the bloody ‘Crossing’??

My only gripe with The Queen of the Tearling was how the setting was totally ignored. It was the most confusing thing ever. Every now and then the author would mention America or old Europe and talk about the “Crossing”. Here we have this fantasy world (magic, knights, kingdoms), which is somehow actually connected to the ‘real’ world.. but it’s NEVER explained what exactly this connection (or “Crossing”) is. It’s mentioned here and there—just as “the Crossing”—but we never actually know what it is.

Example (paraphrased): “Kelsea flipped through one of the beloved Harry Potter books, which were brought over in The Crossing.” WHAT IS THE CROSSING?!?! TELL ME!!

The author talks about utopia, ships that made the “Crossing”—one of which went down with a ton of medical supplies and doctors. The book almost makes it sound like the world grew another continent and a group of settlers decided to sail to it and form the Tearling. (wtf?) We’re never actually told explicitly WHAT, WHERE, or WHEN the crossing was.

This little snippet from the Goodreads series page is more information than we’re directly told in the actual book:

The story is set three centuries after a small portion of the human race has populated a landmass that mysteriously emerged in the wake of an environmental catastrophe.

Gimme epic Queen vs Queen battle!

The only other thing that bummed me out was how the plot never felt like it amounted to much. Basically, Kelsey does something towards the beginning ( View Spoiler » ), then there’s a bunch of political drama (which, to be fair, was interesting), then the book ended the exact same way it began—just tying off the thing she started ages ago ( View Spoiler » ). I feel like I was hoping for something new… like a more grand, epic battle between Kelsea and the Red Queen. This book very much felt like an introduction, and since so little actually happened it almost seems like book 1 out of 7, rather than book 1 out of 3 (though I have no idea if this is even a trilogy). I just wanted more plot progression than we were given.

Awesome book, I’m ready for #2!

But despite that, the plot we did get wasn’t boring. Far from it! I was pretty hooked from start to finish. Towards the end if the book I actually had tears in my eyes because I felt so proud of all that Kelsea had accomplished and how she really stuck to her guns! I felt like I got super invested in all the characters and the story.

Awesome new series!

The Verdict


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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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  1. I’ve been seeing this around a lot lately and I’m really thinking that I need to get a copy from the library. I love fantasy books and so many people seem to love this, as well as you!
    I also like that her name is so close to mine, just spelt differently 🙂

    1. OMG I know! I saw a few negative reviews for it and was really worried at first. But I’m thrilled that I ended up loving it. 🙂 Go us!

    1. Well the book mentioned America, Europe, and Harry Potter, so it definitely was in some future Utopia land. But honestly, that seems REALLY weird to me. I just have a hard time meshing fantasy with modern/future day in my brain. I’d almost prefer that it was just in some separate, fantasy world.

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