Friday, June 13, 2014

Early Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling
by Erika Johansen 
Read: April 24 - 26, 2014
Published: July 8, 2014 by Harper
Source: Edelweiss (Thank you, HarperCollins!)
Category: Fantasy, dystopian, Queens, ADULT

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository

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.

Kelsey has lived all her life in a sheltered cabin and its surrounding woods. She's had no friends or companions except for the two people who have raised her - Barty and Carlin, whom Kesley has loved like parents. Kelsey is the next Queen of the Tearling and for her own safety has been hidden until the age of ascension. But on Kelsey's 19 birthday, the Queen's Guards come to take her to the castle - called the Keep - where she will be queen. At least until she's assassinated or her uncle and acting Regent tries to overthrow her. Kelsey has been told little about her country or those that surround hers, and the more she discovers, the more she realizes the task and dangers ahead of her is far larger than she ever imagined. Especially with the sorceress Red Queen ruling the neighboring kingdom of Mortmense. 

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot. I found the story to be extremely readable but complex, surprising in places and a promising start to a series. But I can also understand those who had problems with it. I think it all depends on how much the issues bug you as a reader. 

5 things you should know before starting The Queen of the Tearling

1) Chapter one is very long. I'm pretty sure the first chapter took up the first 10% of my ebook, and it was a little slow moving for me. But by chapter two the story begins to pick up, and it definitely kept my interest throughout. The story is mostly told from Kelsey's perspective, with some key scenes from other characters' POVs. This is not a Young Adult story, though Kelsey reminded me of a YA heroine. But The Queen of the Tearling is darker and more graphic in places, and I have a feeling it will only get more so as it progresses. I'm hopeful that Kelsey will grow along with the series, as she gets more involved in the ruling of her kingdom and faces off against the evil Red Queen. 

2) Except for one detail, I really enjoyed Kelsey's narrative. Throughout the entire book, Kelsey obsesses about her appearance and body image. She worries about being plain and fat constantly. I like that Kelsey has insecurities and isn't the typical beautiful heroine. She also doesn't undergo any sort of makeover in the book. But her constant thinking about how she looks, felt like one note playing over and over again.  It was a little grating over time. 

Despite that, I came to really like Kelsey a lot. She is naive in many ways, but she also has an intense desire to learn and fix her country. And she's not afraid to make bold decisions for what she believes is right, even when they have consequences. Her inner strength is especially present in stressful situations, and I admired that she was swift to make decisions when she needed to do so. I could definitely see wisdom and the potential for greatness in her, as well as a grounding because of how she has been raised. There is an intense political drama at play, with lots of opposing forces, both within Kelsey's nation and with neighboring kingdoms, and I'm excited to see more of that in the next book. 

3) Answers to Kelsey's questions are slow to come, but they do come. When the book begins, Kelsey has lived all her life in a sheltered cabin with 2 other people who were thorough in her education but extremely limited about what they taught her about her country. When the Queen's Guard comes and Kelsey begins to travel through her kingdom, she starts asking questions - and continues to get few answers. The fact that no one will give Kelsey a straight answer about her kingdom or what she is facing, drove me crazy in the beginning of the book. But I eventually began to see the wisdom in why Kelsey was brought up the way she was. It allowed her to think out of the box her country has been in for so long, and I appreciated her different perspective. And thankfully, Kelsey does get real answers as the book progresses. 

4) The world building and context for the story was interesting, but also very confusing. Kelsey's world is a mashup of historical-modern-fantasy-dystopian, set on a previously undiscovered continent that was colonized sometime in the world's future. In her society are chain mail, castles and feudal farming, as well as Harry Potter books and modern plumbing. There's also magic and science, and I'm quite interested to see how those concepts feature in future books. It was both a fascinating and rather strange mix of elements. I had many questions about the actual "undiscovered continent" setting while I was reading the book, and felt a little uneasy at the lack of clear information about it. 

However, after I finished reading, I found the following on the Goodreads The Queen of the Tearling series page: "The story is set three centuries after a small portion of the human race has populated a landmass that mysteriously emerged in the wake of an environmental catastrophe." While reading, I was very confused at how a new continent could have been discovered somewhere on earth?! That one sentence clarified a LOT for me. I only wish the story had actually included that information. Although, I'm still not sure whether the rest of the world is present (have they been wiped out?), knowing the origin of the new landmass has cleared up so much of my haze about the setting. I'm very curious about how all the different world building elements play out in the future. 

5) What about the romance? Several people have asked me about romance in this book. There really isn't any, although Kelsey has definitely expressed interest in a specific character, and he seems to be gravitating towards her as well. Though it's hard to tell if his feelings are romantic, or if anything will develop at all between them. I find this person intriguing, and I cannot wait to find out more about him. However, I'm not sure what I think about him as a love interest for Kelsey in light of some revelations about him later in the book. (It has nothing at all to do with love triangles - I'm not seeing any competing parties if you're worried about that.) There's one other character I think could be a match for Kelsey, but I truly have no idea where this is going on that front. Kelsey has a lot more going on than her love life, and based on this book, I don't see that being the driving force of the narrative in the future. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - Medium, This doesn't end on a stressful moment. But Kelsey clearly has a long road ahead of her, and many people who don't want her to succeed. 


  1. I absolutely love your review here Lauren! You absolutely nailed all the points I loved and didn't lie so much about the book.
    First off, I really really enjoyed it even though I had similar thoughts about the points you made. Her constant reminder how plain she is totally bugged me too. Yeah, we all got it she's not a Beauty Queen -(well, but most probably will be displayed by Emma Watson in the movies...)

    I am absolutely intrigued by mysterious guy and hope he becomes her love interest, as I see no one else right now. But that might come in the future.

    I am truly excited about the next book and hope some more details about "the mysterious land that just showed up" will be clarified!

  2. Eh. Eh. Eh. I need to write my review soon so I can find out exactly what you thought about this! I'm kind of nervous since most people seem to dislike it so much, hah. But it's nice being the white sheep every once in awhile.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  3. Ohh. Amazing review Lauren :D I am on the International blog tour for this, so I'm going to read it soonish. <3 But then I read a bad review :( And I couldn't decide if I wanted to read it anymore or not. Hmm. But now. I am so glad that you loved it :D Makes me very excited for it, hih. But ohh. A little bit depressed about no romance, lol. But happy for no triangle at least :) Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3

  4. I've read so many mixed reviews when it comes to this book, Lauren. I'm honestly still undecided as to whether I want to read it or not.
    Kelsi sounds like a good character but I'm worried her constant thinking of how fat she is will bother me throughout the book. The plot also sounds very confusing, especially the world-building.
    I'm also that person who likes to have some romance in her high fantasy novels, so I can't say this is appealing to me right now. Hopefully, the feedback for the second book will be better.
    I'm glad you enjoyed the book despite its flaws, Lauren! Great review. :)

  5. Fantastic review. I've been putting off reading this one because of some disappointing reviews, but you've given me hope that I'll enjoy the story afterall. I was actually considering the audio in the end because fantasy tends to move along faster for me when I'm listening, and a really long 1st chapter might put me off reading the rest, too.

  6. Hmmm. I'm not sure what to think about this one Lauren! You know how much I love romance, so the fact that in a big book like this I won't find any waiting for me makes me a little hesitant to pick it up. I can't help it! I'm glad to know about the slow beginning and the slightly confusing world upfront though, it's always good when I know to expect those things so they don't drive me so crazy. I'll be interested to see what you think of the next book and how the relationships you mentioned develop:)

  7. I adore fantasy and I'd usually be all for grabbing this one, but too many people have disliked it which scares me. I'm also not overly drawn to the context at the moment, so I think I'm going to be waiting to see what the sequel is like before diving into this just yet. Lovely review, Lauren -- I really like the way you tailored this to help readers going into the book. I'll have to return to this for sure before I start the book. :)

  8. Fab review -- yep, those are my thoughts, pretty much. I highly enjoyed it but did have some quibbles about the worldbuilding (I need more) and about Kelsey's obsession with her looks (say it once or twice, so we know it's an issue with her but don't beat the reader over the head with it).

  9. I am glad to see you enjoyed this one! :)

    I know quite a few people haven't enjoyed this one so it's nice to see another perspective. I am not sure this one would be for me though because even though I like fantasy, some of the things I've heard about this book make it seem like something I would have a hard time getting behind AND into (a chapter 1 that takes up 10% of the novel is SCARYYYY).

    Lovely review, Lauren! :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

  10. I'm intrigued by this one and I love a good fantasy, but you've pointed out some problems with the book that will probably prevent me from liking it: confusing world-building and no romance. Not that I can't like a book without romance, but it's hard for me to love a book without any sort of romance at all. I'll probably end up reading it anyway. :) ~Pam

  11. Your point about the worldbuilding is really, really interesting. It sounds like such a unique world here, and I can see that either being really awesome to me, or else really annoying/problematic. Hopefully the former!
    I'm definitely going to read this book, considering all the hype that it's received and the fact that it's an adult fantasy (yay!). I definitely appreciated reading your thoughts on this so that I can be better prepared and hopefully not count myself among those who closed this book in disappointment.
    Not going to lie, the non-focus on romance here is also earning this book some early points to me haha.
    Glad you were able to enjoy this one overall, Lauren! I hope the future installments do help clarify the questions and such that are present.

  12. This does sound interesting, though I can see why the world would be confusing without that one crucial bit of information. Thank you for the great review!

  13. Very very interesting. I was reading this with a blogger book group and we decided to do the first chapter, realized the first chapter was crazy long, and kind of gave up. I then heard at a pub breakfast meeting that it was set in the future and was kind of disappointed to find that out before reading the book since it would have been fun to discover. However, you make an excellent point of how confusing that would be if it isn't explained well.... Curioser and curioser, I'm reexcited about this one now though, so thank you :D


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