Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Genre: (High) Fantasy.
Published: July 2015 (UK Bantam edition, book first published in July 2014)
Publisher: Bantam Books
Acquired: Bought at my local Waterstones
Book Blurb:: It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn.
They came to escort her back to the place of her birth- and to ensure she survives long enough to take possession of what is rightfully hers.
But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders.
Unlike most nineteen-year-olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees- corrupt, debauched and very dangerous.
Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known… or be dead within the week.
You know the feeling of joy you get when you find a book that fills your EXACT craving? Yup, that’s what I felt when I read The Queen of the Tearling. I have so much love for this book, so much so I don’t think my writing skills will be able to do this review justice!
Essentially the book revolves around Kelsea Glynn, who has lived in an isolated shack with her guardians Barty and Carlin ever since the death of her other, Queen Elyssa of the Tearling Kingdom. On her 19th birthday she is picked up from the shack by the Queen’s guards, claiming it is time for her to get rid of her Uncle as Regent and take her rightful place as Queen. With little experience in royalty and leadership except from the teachings by her guardians, Kelsea’s right to the throne is proven by the scar on her arm, and the sapphire she wears around her neck.
The Kingdom of Tearling is a nation in deep trouble; slavery, corruption, poverty and treason are rife and pose great challenges for the new Queen. There is also the ongoing presence of the neighbouring Mortmesne’s Queen, who wants to see Kelsea dead. The book focuses on Kelsea’s journey to the castle and her attempts to adjust to her new position as royalty; trying to gain popularity and make the best possible decisions for the benefit of her kingdom, while also learning more secrets about the royal sapphires, her mother’s reign and the subsequent state of her home nation.
The world-building in The Queen of the Tearling wasn’t as detailed as I originally expected, as the majority of the book is based within The Keep and through conversations with other characters. I was also slightly confused with references to our world and our culture. From what I gather, this takes place in the future? I mean they talked about things like The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit and modern technology. But it seems there was a big event that involved crossing over from the Americas and things to the Tearling Kingdom, but certain catastrophes meant technology, medicines and things were never brought across to this world, hence why the Tearling kingdom is living in a high-fantasy medieval setting.
It is a bit confusing, BUT I was still totally engrossed in the plot, so I honestly did overlook this slightly and kinda ignored it? I loved everything that happened, it felt so real and not ‘fluffy’ at all. I would classify it as a ‘political’ high fantasy, but by political I am talking about the logical decisions Kelsea takes in running her kingdom and their consequences, rather than focusing on the niceties in keeping favour with political noble factions (which I can sometimes find confusing). I love love loved seeing all the decisions Kelsea was making and hearing her reasonings for doing so. It was JUST the thing I was looking for in my next book, so I’m now a little biased. I just couldn’t wait for the spare moments during my work commute when I could just pick up this book and lose myself in the events in the castle.
I am also really interested in the royal sapphires in the book. I feel like the magic was only briefly touched upon in this book, but I can’t wait to see what direction Erika Johansen will take it in the sequel.
I do like a good slow possession story, if written well…
An extra feature I really enjoyed was the inclusion of book/essay extracts at the beginning of each chapter. They were super interesting to read, as they are essentially texts written in the future of the Tearling kingdom, looking back at the events of (principally) Kelsea’s reign. At first I was confused with their inclusion, but as the book progresses they really give you hints about her reign and its consequences. It really made it feel that much more real and that you were reading history in the making, which I found super exciting.
I also really enjoyed Kelsea as a character. She was really strong-willed and feisty, but I loved how logical and driven she was. She wasn’t afraid of her new position and just got on with it, which was a refreshing change. AND she loves books, which is an added bonus. 😀 I mean, one of her major ideas was to reinstate the printing press and get her old books from the shack all the way to the castle. #bookdedication.
One minor thing I didn’t like about her was her constant remarks about her appearance. I mean I get that she is only 19 and so can be insecure about her looks, but she kept repeating how plain she was all the time. I felt a bit out of place as it didn’t contribute anything to the plot at all.
To be honest I enjoyed the variety of gritty characters in the book, it was a nice mix of personalities with different traits and faults. Mace was another enjoyable character, but it would have been nice to see a more informal/friendly side of him! However he did get a bit obsessive over his security reputation in the castle throughout the book. He beat himself up about certain events way too much, and wouldn’t accept any consul from Kelsea at all, which frustrated me. I’m a bit concerned he is going to self-destruct in the next book!
All in all I really don’t think I can describe how much I LOVE this book, my heart is so full. I wish I could just transfer my feelings directly to your brain so you can see how good this book was for me.
It was the EXACT kind of storyline I have been craving- a strong-willed yet logical young girl, trying her best to be Queen and not afraid to take bold political decisions to help her kingdom. I know it has a few niggles but my own bias and love for this story means I couldn’t help but give it the full 5 stars for this review.
The Queen of the Tearling does have action and magic, but I would say it focuses more on the running of a kingdom and its consequences rather than bloody battles- so bear that in mind if you are going to pick up this book. That said it was just the thing I was looking for. I love this so so much- it is definitely a new favourite of mine. Can’t wait to read the second book! ♥
Have you guys read this book yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
Note: All gifs in this post, as always, are sourced from Giphy
P.S. Also, this book is being made into a movie with the one-and-only Emma frickin’ Watson! :O