Series Review: Queen of the Tearling (no spoilers!)

It took me long enough, but I finally finished The Queen of the Tearling series! This post doesn’t contain spoilers for any of the books, so you can safely read everything here even if you haven’t read the first one yet (just skip reading the synopses for books two and three).

Book 1: Very exciting! But confusing & lack of information.

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.

I reviewed The Queen of the Tearling back in 2014. I’m not going to rehash everything about my original review, but in short, I loved it!

One thing that’s pretty amusing is my biggest gripe from The Queen of the Tearling was the lack of information about “the Crossing”. What’s funny is the lack of information became one of my favourite parts about the next book..

Book 2: Loooved the new information! (Solid second book.)

The Invasion of the TearlingThe Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #2
Published by: HarperCollins on June 9, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Pages: 525
Source: Purchased
Book Details
Rating: ★★★★

With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

The Invasion of the Tearling was a super solid second book! We get a little more information about “the Crossing”, but we still don’t have the big picture. During this book, I started to really adore the fact that I didn’t know what the book was. I didn’t even know the genre, which is weird, but cool.

Fantasy? Futuristic? Dystopia/utopia? View Spoiler » I had no idea what we were dealing with, and I loved that! There was something really exciting about the not knowing.

Book 3: Great ending, but I lost some of my excitement.

The Fate of the TearlingThe Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #3
Published by: HarperCollins on November 29, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Pages: 496
Source: Purchased
Book Details
Rating: ★★★½

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.

To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.

Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.

I really enjoyed The Fate of the Tearling, but it also left me really unsure about how I feel about the series as a whole.

On the one hand, I MASSIVELY enjoyed the information that was revealed, most of the different points of view, and just the concept of the story overall. But maybe my interest for the series started to wane?

  • I lost my love for some of the characters. It’s not that I disliked them; it’s more that I didn’t care enough.
  • I lost some kind of passionate connection for the characters and story.
  • I no longer felt super invested.

The tough thing for me is truly identifying if those problems were because of the book, or because of some “me” problem. I usually get those symptoms when I’m in some kind of weird funk that may have nothing to do with the book at all (objectively), and is just something with my mood.

Also, the book felt LONG and I’m not convinced it was all necessary. There were definitely parts were I was skimming or just dragging my feet. My attention was lost.

A quote from this review actually managed to say exactly what I mean in a few words:

“It’s good, and has some really unique concepts that blew me away, but it is also long winded, has some plot holes. It never grew into anything that I would cherish, recommend, or want to reread in the future; it was just a passable fantasy series, with strong female representation that I appreciated.”


I think I was hoping the series would turn into this huge, epic thing that I’d never forget and want to share with the world. But it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I still really liked it and it gave me a lot to think about, but it never reached this level of epicness that I hoped for it.

Overall: Really *interesting* series

The Queen of the Tearling isn’t romantic, and it’s not even that ‘adventurous’. I think the biggest thing this series has going for it is that it’s really freakin’ interesting. It has some concepts that will absolutely leave you think about stuff for hours. I’m really glad I finally read the whole series, even if just for that reason!

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  1. I had a really hard time getting into the first book. I found the book to be pretty boring, and the world building to be a little weak. I got the first book as an eBook for 99cents, I didn’t actually finish it either. I read about the first 5 or so chapters. I have a ‘5 chapters or 50 pages’ rule for books, if I haven’t been drawn in by then I stop reading. It might be a slight detriment, but there are a lot of books I want to read, and I don’t want to spend my time reading a book I am not enjoying.

    1. I thought the same about the world building (that was my biggest critique), but it actually starts to make a lot more sense as the series goes on.

      Anyway I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it! I totally agree though about not spending time on a book you’re not enjoying. Life is too short for that and reading is supposed to be fun. 🙂

  2. Well, I think you’ve convinced me to read at least the first book! Actually, I think it *might* already be on my TBR list…-runs off to check- Oh, it’s not! But I’m really excited by the fact that you say it’s NOT a romance. I swear every fantasy I’ve picked up lately devolves into romance. Bah humbug. 😛

    1. In the first book there are a few things that will make you think it might turn into a romance, but it doesn’t, so don’t worry!

      Also, my biggest critique about the first book was the lack of world building, but there’s actually a reason for this and it ends up making sense later on!

      I hope you like it. 🙂

  3. I tried listening to the audio version of the first book but I had to stop because the narrator irritated me (her voice was monotone and she sounded to old to portray Kelsea). But I did think her story was interesting and want to try this series again. Thanks for reminding me about this series lol.

  4. I had high hopes for Queen of the Tearling, but it turned out to be the worst book I’ve read in quite a few years. The worldbuilding is simply awful – bad ideas, badly thought out – and the story is full of nonsense and character stupidity.

    For example, why, when protecting the heir to the throne and fleeing for their lives from assassins, are the guards sitting around getting drunk? Why did such a vapid and useless queen as the protagonist’s mother even have such a fanatically loyal guard, when everyone else in the country is so corrupt? Why was the regent (or whoever pulled his strings, as he seemed a complete non-entity) unable to just cut off their pay, disband them, or have them all executed? Why is a bunch of easily available information, known to the entire population, randomly kept from the protagonist (aside from the totally artificial reason of allowing the author to make a show of revealing it later on and thereby creating false drama)? Why has the protagonist’s uncle, who wants her dead, been ruling as regent instead of just declaring her dead and seizing the throne for himself? Like the historical princes in the tower, nobody would believe she was still alive by that point anyway. Since the regent was obviously incompetent, as he couldn’t even get rid of a few dozen disloyal guardsmen in his own palace, why did nobody else fill the obvious power vacuum? Why, if books are so rare, and education is so sparse, are virtually all the characters able to read? Etc, etc, etc…

    I don’t think there are reasonable answers to these questions (and many others I could list here if I wanted to spend another 3 hours on a blog comment dissecting a terrible book) – I think the author was just unable to think through the consequences of her careless plot and worldbuilding decisions. The novel mentions learning from history on various occasions, and yet the author clearly hasn’t, as the political situation we are presented with does not ring true at all, except to the most naive readers. Then there is the cringeworthy soapboxing. I’m a pretty hardcore atheist, but even I found the treatment of the subject in this book embarrassing, and the scenes involving the protagonist’s library were just nauseating.

    Ugh, I could go on and on about how awful this book was. I’ve never been so disappointed in a novel, and can scarcely believe all the praise (and the ridiculous 7-figure advance) lavished on such a deeply substandard work.

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