Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5
It’s Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, which only means one thing: the day she, and the entire kingdom, have been waiting for is here. Kelsea’s mother was the Queen of the Tearling, and it’s Kelsea’s birthright to be the same. Today, she comes into her majority as queen. There’s just one problem: Kelsea’s uncle has held the throne since Kelsea’s mother died and Kelsea was whisked away in secrecy. He’s been looking for her ever since, intent on killing her. Surrounded by her mother’s loyal guards, Kelsea must travel a dangerous road to the capital to claim her position and take charge of her kingdom.
Though Queen of the Tearling has some serious issues, it’s an enjoyable fantasy novel with an interesting setting and a very appealing main character.
Queen of the Tearling is a novel that is just a lot of fun to read, despite some serious flaws. It drew me in from the very first page; Johansen’s easy writing style captured my attention such that I read this book in one sitting, racing through the pages to discover what happens to Kelsea. The author crafts some very interesting mysteries to keep the plot moving forward, and she keeps the tension high throughout the story.
Kelsea is an appealing character in Queen of the Tearling; she’s been raised knowing she will be queen one day (if she survives that long) and has been prepared for it by two very devoted guardians. As a result, she knows everything she needs in terms of book learning, but she’s woefully naive when it comes to real life situations. This gets her into trouble when it comes to impulsive decisions. She wants to do the right thing, but too often she doesn’t consider the consequences of her actions. Still, readers will appreciate how devoted she is to the well-being of her people. Another area where Kelsea’s education is lacking is the recent history of the Tearling. She doesn’t know much at all about her mother, nor what has happened to the kingdom. In terms of suspense, it’s certainly interesting, keeping the reader guessing as to what’s really going on in the realm. But in terms of Kelsea being the future queen? It really doesn’t make a lot of sense. How would it benefit a ruler to not know the recent history of her kingdom?
Readers will enjoy Kelsea’s character growth, as she goes from a naive young woman to a passionate ruler. It’s a great transition for the character, especially as she learns along the way. The story is certainly entertaining; as I mentioned, I raced through this book breathlessly, eager to see what happened. It was only after I turned the last pages and started thinking about it that I realized it had serious issues. Things are just . . . too easy in the book. Without giving too much away, it seems as though every major problem just magically goes away as Kelsea deals with it. In this A Game of Thrones era, we expect complexity and realism when it comes to the politics of fantasy, consequences for every action taken, even if it’s for the public good, but that didn’t really seem to happen in Queen of the Tearling. It was entertaining, yes, but not really satisfying.
The world building is also interesting in Queen of the Tearling. It seems to be an alternate history sort of novel, but set in our future. Things are different, history is different, but it also feels as though it’s set in the past. This sounds confusing, I know, and Johansen doesn’t do much to clear it up. The world is intriguing, to be sure, but there just isn’t a lot of information given. That’s not necessarily a criticism, though; sometimes easing readers in is best, and presumably we’ll learn more in the next book in the series (Queen of the Tearling is the first in a trilogy).
So. I did have a lot of criticism about Queen of the Tearling, so why the positive rating? Because, at the end of the day, I really enjoyed reading it. Yes, I had quibbles while I was reading, and when I was finished, a lot more surfaced, but sometimes that doesn’t matter as much as you’d think. There are times when I’m in an introspective mood and there are times I just want to be swept away; this book did the latter very well. The fact is, I did enjoy it and I’m looking forward to the second book.