The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Book One of The Queen of the Tearling series
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
The Queen of the Tearling introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen.
What I Liked:
First, publishers, you need to learn how to get rid of the attitude that comparing everything and anything to The Hunger Games is a good idea. Because it's not a good idea. In fact, for someone like me, seeing a book or series compared to a huge franchise like The Hunger Games will turn me off. And in this book's case, I couldn't find a single similarity between The Hunger Games and this book. This book was a thousand times better than that series. As for The Game of Thrones comparison, I can't speak for that one, but I wish everyone would give that comparison a rest as well.
Anyway. I LOVED THIS BOOK! I was pleasantly surprised by how well-written this book, how well-constructed the story was, and how much I liked it. Granted, I LOVE high fantasy novels, but I don't read too many adult high fantasy novels. Yup, this book is adult fiction. Check out the price - it's nearly ten dollars (USD) more than a YA hardcover. That's how you know! Also, Harper is publishing this one (versus HarperTeen, Katherine Tegen, Balzer + Bray, etc.
That being said, I should warn everyone about the "adult themes", or whatever. This book isn't tagged as YA for a reason - it's about a Young Adult, but that's about where the "YA" part might have started and ended (if it existed in this book). There is rape, mutilation, violence, murder, swearing, abuse, and other "adult" topics in this book. Just a warning, for the younger readers, or anyone who is sensitive to those topics.
So. Kelsea is the exiled princess of the Tearling. Exiled meaning in hiding. She was brought in seclusion, by foster parents, far away from the dirty taint of politics and civilization. But when she turns nineteen, she goes back to the Tear, to claim her throne. Once there, she becomes aware of many, many problems that the whole world was familiar with, except her (because of her seclusion). One decision, to stop sending humans to Mortmesne (violating a treaty with the Red Queen), will start a chain of events that Kelsea cannot undo.
There are so many wonderful things about this book, I don't even know where to start! I guarantee you, I will forget things. I won't be able to do this book justice. The story was terrific. The characters, so well-shaped. The fantasy, the world-building, ahhh!
I really like Kelsea. She is described as "plain", not gorgeous like her mother. She is also a bit "heavy", which is a problem when she tries to take up sword-fighting to protect herself. I love that she isn't a beautiful, naughty, naturally-cliche-princessy princess. She breaks into her role as queen both slowly and quickly, and develops her backbone and her regal stance. I loved watching her character grow - this book is long, the pace slow, and so we really get to see both the characters and the story progress.
This book is written in third person limited, so we get to read from the third-person perspectives of several characters. I like this! I like seeing what other characters think of others, especially of Kelsea. My favorite characters didn't have their own perspectives featured (Mace, the Fetch), but I really like the characters that were featured. With the exception of Thomas, he's a pig.
The Fetch. I hope we see more of him in future books. I'm confused as to who he is, what he is, what his role is. I want more page-time with him! I want to know more about him, his personality, his past. I have a feeling that he is a very complicated person, so that task is not as simple as it sounds. But he is probably my favorite character of the book. Sorry, Kelsea. I'm sure she'd agree with me.
As I said, this book is really long, so we get to see the nuts and bolts of every scene. Every scene, every character, every description - everything is so WELL-WRITTEN. It wasn't that this author had a defining writing style, a unique or lyrical or distinctive one - no, but this story was really well-written. We get to see the real ins-and-outs of the politics of a high fantasy world. Oftentimes, especially in YA books, the politics and real governing of a kingdom are watered down. In this book, Johansen holds nothing back, especially with those adult themes. That's a good way to know that this one is adult fiction.
As I've mentioned the story itself is really well-crafted. I wanted to know what would happen next, with the broken treaty, the traitor, the spies, the Red Queen - what was she doing with all of the humans sent from the Tear?! I had many questions while reading, and I still have questions, but they're not plot-hole questions. I'm not necessarily confused about anything - it's more like I want to know more, but not because I'm frustrated with the story, or I don't understand something because things aren't clear enough. No, Johansen has an excellent balance of information given and omitted in this book.
Think epic, action-packed, blood-soaked, betrayal-ridden, constant, ever-present fear. This is such an excellent example of how I like my high fantasy novels (but with a little more romance). Seriously, the scheming and plotting and planning was madness and ecstasy, brilliance and folly. So much love!
The world-building was probably one of my favorite aspects of this book. This book is so epic fantasy wonderful! Technically, this book takes place in the wayyyyy future, because there are mentions of the Americas and technology and "The Crossing" (I have a good idea of what that is, but I feel like Johansen will explore that part of Tear history in future books). However, this book is high fantasy. And what a fantasy world it is! I love how Johansen created this world, and what she created.
The romance - you might be surprised to hear that there was no romance in this book. Nothing, no growing relationships, no sneaking touches or glances, no queen-and-captain-of-the-guard-fall-in-love trope, nothing. There is a hint at a possible romance happening in the future books, which I would be ALL FOR, because I like the guy and I like the girl, but we'll see. It might not happen, but the seeds are there. I'm glad the romance is like that - nonexistent in the first book, but potentially a thing in future books. It lets readers focus completely on the world, the politics, the brewing war.
Have I said enough? I sure hope so! You should definitely check out this book when it comes out! I hear the author (a debut author) was offered a seven-figure deal for this trilogy, and that movie adaptation rights have already been bought, starring Emma Watson? So. Go go go! You heard it first here on The Eater of Books! blog. *nudges*
What I Did Not Like:
I think the pacing was the only thing that bothered me at all. This book kind of moves at a snail's pace. On the one hand, I can really appreciate the amount of descriptions and care the author has included, in order to build up the story and the Tear world. However, it took me about three times as long to read this book as it would a book of its size. I can't imagine how they're going to condense this entire book down into a screenplay for a movie. While this book moved really slowly, I can't imagine cutting out so many scenes, scenes that helped shape this novel, even if they seemed unnecessary. But anyway. My original point was that the pacing was slow. Because it was.
Also. While I liked the "no romance" thing in this book. Perhaps a little romance in books to come? Yes.
Would I Recommend It:
YES!! You definitely do NOT want to miss this book, especially since it's an upcoming hit series or whatever. Love it before the real hype pours over the country/world. Get to it because the hoards do! You love fantasy? Great! You'll really enjoy this book!
Just be warned - it's an adult fiction novel. It's NOT listed as a "Teen" or "YA" novel, because really, it isn't. However, don't not read this book because it's not a YA novel (if you love YA novels). Just know that it is an adult fiction novel.
4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. I'm only rounding down to 4 stars because it really did take me entirely too long to finish this book, mostly due to the pacing. 450 pages isn't too long, but this was a slow-moving book. Just saying. I LOVED IT SO MUCH THOUGH!! Go pick up a copy as soon as possible!
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