March 7, 2015

Review | The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Publication Date: July 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: The Queen of the Tearling {Book 1}
Source & Format: Owned; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I opened The Queen of the Tearling. The beautiful cover and intriguing book blurb grabbed me, but I wasn’t sure if this was a YA romance like The Selection or something more like Harry Potter. The Queen of the Tearling, however, is neither: it’s a fascinating work unto itself. I wish we could sit down face to face and talk about Johansen’s amazing story – there’s so much that I want to share with you! Instead, let’s stick to the highlights:

When most female heroes are described as “plain,” the other characters in the novel go out of their way to assure the reader that the heroine is, indeed, gorgeous. Not Kelsea: she’s described, constantly, as plain and her own arms master tentatively suggests she try a little conditioning if she wants to continue her fencing training. It was so wonderful to have a Plain Jane, an Everygirl to cheer for. Kelsea’s descriptors came from her bravery, her slight stubbornness, her curiosity, instead of her shining eyes and flawless skin. I knew I’d love her when she demanded the empty bookshelves of the Keep be filled with books!

My only issue with her character lies in her adjustment to the role of Queen. It was almost a bit too smooth for a girl spending her entire life locked away in the country, socializing only with her foster parents. There wasn’t enough of a transition for me to believe that she fit into this new role so smoothly – it would be terrifying for any girl, but for a fairly sheltered one? 

The plot of The Queen of the Tearling is held up by magic and adventure; therefore, there is never a dull moment. From the moment Kelsea mounts up with the Queen’s Guard, her life changes irrecoverably. I loved how the plot slowly unrolled one adventure after another, creating the perfect pace of the story. The looming tension from the Red Queen and the mysteries that Kelsea still needs to unravel for herself – who was her mother really? Who was her father? – create one of the best novels I read so far this year. 

The Queen of the Tearling was emotionally hard to read at times, especially when Kelsea first enters the Keep, but I couldn’t put it down. I had to stay with her, to see what happened, to see how it ended. It’s a book that made me long for more.

Posted March 7, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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