Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Rating: 3.75 stars
Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.
Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling. (Goodreads)
I had heard many good things about this book, in addition to a friend vigorously recommending it to me, so I decided it was finally time I read it. Especially since the third book is coming out in the fall, and I won’t have to wait too long to finish the trilogy. I really liked this book – I didn’t love it as much as I was expecting, but I definitely enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to continuing the series.
One of the things that stood out to me right away is that this book isn’t written like a YA novel. Don’t misunderstand me – I read and enjoy a lot of YA novels, so this isn’t at all a comment against any YA. It’s just that – for me at least – YA novels tend to have a different feel when I’m reading them than adult novels. They are quicker to read, the plots aren’t always as long or complex as some adult novels and just on the surface, the print is almost always larger and more spread out. (I can usually finish a YA novel in just a day or two, even if it’s one I’m not particularly excited about.) This novel had none of those qualities. If I hadn’t known it gets shelved in the Teen section of the bookstore, I never would have guessed it wasn’t an adult fantasy novel.
Even though I do love a lot of YA novels, I find it refreshing that this novel didn’t have that feel. It sometimes feels like YA authors (certainly not all, but some) write really good stories, but simplify them for a younger audience. However, teens are intelligent people. YA novels can be written just like adult novels and they will be understood – especially when it comes to fantasy. Like I said, this is not meant to be disparaging against YA fiction, it’s just an observation based on what I’ve read. Even though I myself am no longer a teenager, I remember when I was a teenager I preferred to read adult novels because the novels for my age range just weren’t interesting (I started reading Grisham novels when I was 11). YA fiction has improved a lot since then, but it’s still nice when an author doesn’t talk down to his or her audience and writes like they’re equals.
I thought the premise of the story was interesting – the idea that this takes place centuries after a group of individuals have decided to forsake the technological advancements of what was presumably our modern day society and attempt to set up a utopian world elsewhere. I would really like to know more about this crossing – are we to believe they just found undiscovered land somewhere, or did they cross over into an alternate world entirely? Or, is their legend completely false and there is some other explanation for the loss of technology? I’m really curious to learn more about how their world came to be, and I hope we do.
I really loved the characterization of Kelsea in this novel. I liked that though in a way this is technically a “chosen one” kind of storyline, since Kelsea is the heir to the throne, but she doesn’t feel like a “chosen one.” She has flaws – despite her education and training she’s not particularly strong, or athletic. She feels like a normal girl, forced to live isolated for years then plucked from that life to face possible death while restoring her kingdom. She’s smart and down-to-earth, compassionate and stubborn and definitely has all the qualities that will make a good queen – if she lives long enough.
The one thing that slightly irritated me about this novel – and the only thing that kept me from giving it a 4 star rating – was Kelsea’s immediate attraction to the Fetch. Sure he’s tall, dark, and mysterious, but the man threatened to kill her and she immediately falls in love with him? Also, Kelsea is a strong independent woman; does she really need a love interest this early in the story? I am not opposed to her falling for the Fetch eventuaally, but I would have been perfectly happy if this little tidbit had been left out and she didn’t start to become interested in him until the second book – or at least if they had waited until he showed up at the end of the first book. But every time she thought about him after their first meeting I just found myself rolling my eyes. In a book that otherwise felt so well-written and plotted, this seemed unnecessary and trivial.
Despite this one small annoyance, I really enjoyed the book overall, and there were mysteries left unsolved that leave me really eager to read the next book and start counting down until the third.