Despite the events of Queen of the Tearling, the Mort Queen has decided to invade the Tearling, and Kelsea must find a way to protect her people. As she grapples with the most difficult decisions she’s had to make yet, Kelsea finds herself transported into the life of a pre-Crossing woman, Lily, which reveals more about herself and the queen she wants to be than she could have ever known.
Queen of the Tearling, oh did I have issues with you. It was one of the most compulsively readable books I’ve read in recent memory, and despite the serious problems I had with plot holes and such, it is a book I can say I loved. I loved that feeling of needing to know what happened next, of losing myself in it, of racing through to see what would happen. Mixed feelings, to be sure, but I also knew that I’d read the hell out of Invasion of the Tearling when I got it, and I’m happy to say it lived up to my expectations.
The overwhelming emotion of Invasion of the Tearling? Anger. Kelsea is righteously angry about the situation that she’s found herself in, about the things that have been hidden from her, about the refusal of the people around her to take her seriously, about the changes she is experiencing, about the fact that she is completely unprepared for all of this. So many conflicting emotions lead Kelsea to white-hot anger, and it’s incredibly refreshing. Too often writers are afraid of imbuing their female main character with so much anger, because they have to be “likeable.” Kelsea is scared, confused, and lonely, yes, but she’s also so angry at the world. Johansen brings up interesting social commentary with these aspects of the novel, and it’s more thought provoking than you’d expect for your typical fantasy novel.
Kelsea’s changed a lot since Queen of the Tearling, and not all of that is natural. Of course going from a hut in the woods to the queen of a realm will change you; that’s to be expected. But there are other forces at work here shaping Kelsea into what she wants to be; the question is, are these changes for the better or worse? It’s interesting to witness Kelsea’s transformation over the course of the novel; rather than softening, as you’d expect a young woman to do, she becomes sharper, harder, more brutal.
If you’re a person who needs everything in a novel to be perfect in order to enjoy it, then these books are not for you. Both Queen of the Tearling and Invasion of the Tearling have their issues, but I’m not focusing on those because these books are so compulsively readable and engaging. There’s a lot I didn’t go into in this review; the magic, issues of religion, learning more about the Crossing through the flashbacks. I thoroughly enjoyed each second I spent with Invasion of the Tearling and look forward to the last book in the trilogy.