Book Review: The Fate of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

Title: The Fate of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
ISBN: 9780062290427
Pages: 496
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher

The summary may contain spoilers for the previous novels in the Queen of the Tearling series. However, the review is of the entire series and contains no spoilers for the books.


It’s finally happened: the dreaded Red Queen has sent her armies to invade the Tearling. Queen Kelsea knows that her people don’t have a chance of defending themselves militarily; that’s why she gave herself up to the Red Queen’s forces, sacrificing herself to save her people. But things don’t go quite as Kelsea expects; she doesn’t expect her rival to be so human, so tormented, and the things she discovers disturb her. Will Kelsea be able to save the Tearling, once and for all, or will she succumb to the power of the Red Queen?


I have a lot of feelings about the Tearling series. That’s not the most professional or objective way to begin a review, for sure, but it’s difficult for me to separate how I feel about the series from what I think about it; they’re intertwined. For example, in my head, I know that this series has serious flaws. It has plot holes, character issues, and storytelling problems, just to start. And yet, I don’t really care. I won’t hesitate to wholeheartedly recommend this series to everyone. My reaction to it is emotional, rather than what’s in my head, and I’m okay with that.

The main reason I love this series so much is because of Kelsea herself. Specifically, she is angry, and for good reason. She’s been deceived and lied to her entire life. She’s expected to save her people without knowing her history, with incomplete information, which is virtually impossible. Indeed, the bulk of this novel focuses on how our pasts influence our present. The evils we face today often have their roots in the actions of those who came before us.

The Fate of the Tearling focuses more on The Red Queen of Mortmesne than I expected, to its credit. It fleshed out the villain that has loomed over the entire trilogy. She becomes more than just an evil and malicious presence. Johansen never lets the reader forget that she has done horrible things in her quest for power, and is irredeemable as a queen, but a person? Who was she before she was the Mort queen, before her thirst for power because insatiable? It’s a very interesting character exploration.

I reread the first two novels in the Tearling trilogy before diving into The Fate of the Tearling, and it was a good decision. This book ties back so much to what came before, especially in The Invasion of the Tearling, and it’s worth refreshing your memory before delving into this novel. I’m not going to say a lot about how Johansen wraps up the series, except to say that while I’m not sure I loved her decisions, I do appreciate how daring, creative, and brave it was. Indeed, that’s a great summation of the entire trilogy—it’s not perfect, but in the end, it was great.

Other books by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling
The Invasion of the Tearling

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Book Review: Invasion of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

invasion-of-the-tearlingTitle: Invasion of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
ISBN: 9780062290397
Pages: 528
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher


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.

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Book Review: Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

queen of the tearling cover

Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
ISBN: 9780062290366
Pages: 448
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Harper
Genre:  Fantasy
Source: Publisher
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.

Snapshot Review:

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.

Full Review:

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.

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