The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen Book Review

The Queen of the Tearling Book Cover The Queen of the Tearling
Erika Johansen
Harper
July 8, 2014
TLC Book Tours

Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.

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.

 

Ms. Johansen offers up a tale of a young woman, born to be Queen, in The Queen of the Tearling. Kelsea, raised in isolation, knows that when she turns nineteen she will rule a kingdom. When that day arrives, she finds herself tested on all sides. Assassins follow her. The Regent, her uncle, wants to keep his power. Worse, the kingdom has a treaty with the neighboring Queen, a sorceress, who has slowly been bleeding the country of its people. Kelsea must learn how to rule and come into her own if she is to survive. I know – the description doesn’t do much to distinguish this from any number of other novels out there. Trust me, this one offers something new – or maybe it’s more of a new blend of traditional elements.

The Queen of Tearling moves at a fast pace, the plot giving the reader few moments to catch their breath as Kelsea’s tale unfolds. I enjoyed the fast pace and the action. However, I felt the climax left something to be desired—the resolution was too easy for our heroine. I had expected something more complicated, more detailed than the way it ended.

However, Ms. Johansen created an intriguing new world, full of detail and delicious hints. In some ways, it reminded me of the fantasy novels I read as a child (Anne McCaffery, Mercedes Lackey, or Marion Zimmer Bradley) and still managed to be something new, unimagined. The Tearling leaps from the pages with its own history and culture, medieval in flavor with the occasional touch of the modern world. My only complaint—the magic didn’t get explained (granted, the characters themselves did not understand it, either) and I wanted a better feel for the rules governing it.

Kelsea makes for an easy-to-like protagonist. At times, she reminded me of a fictional Queen Elizabeth—but that may be because I read too many histories. Our heroine possesses intelligence and heart in a fun combination. Kelsea, also, gains the help and loyalty of a fascinating and diverse group of followers. I found myself as fascinated by the supporting characters as by Kelsea. I found myself pleasantly surprised at the lack of romance—it felt refreshing to find a heroine who could stay focused on the troubles at hand without getting sidetracked by falling in love.

I enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading whatever Ms. Johansen writes next—hopefully a follow-up to this one so I get answers to many of my questions! Like so many books these days (the movie rights have already been bought by Warner Bros), we can look forward to seeing this on the big screen.

 

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