Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review: The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen

Firstly, thanks to Harper for this review copy <3


Date Read: June 24 2014 - August 5 2015 (YES LOL >1 year)
Date Released: July 14th 2014
Publisher: Harper
Source: Edelweiss via publisher
Genre: Sci-fi/fantasy
My Rating:

"An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

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.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch."

Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea's journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her."


I’m not entirely sure why it took me SO long to read The Queen of the Tearling because it was a pretty decent book and once I got into it, I couldn’t stop reading!

The thing that I (and I think many people picking up this book) had to get over and accept is that The Queen of the Tearling isn’t actual high fantasy. It’s not set in a wholly created universe but rather, in some distant future where our current world has gone through some disaster and forced the ancestors of this story to make some ‘Crossing’. Whether it’s into a new dimension/universe or to some country they then made their own I don’t know. In this new world though, everything has regressed. Technology no longer exists, but there are remnants of the old world – people seem to remember bits of technology, genetics, books (there was a Harry Potter mention that made me go WTF but YAY) but the advancements of the old world are few and hard to come by. But there’s magic. Ok, wtf moment over?

The protagonist, Kelsea, is one of the most realistic MCs I’ve ever read. She’s heir to the Tearling throne but grew up in an isolated cottage for her own protection. Her foster parents have taught her all they can but when the Queen’s Guard comes to retrieve her so she can claim her throne, the journey is not easy. I loved how realistic Kelsea is. She knew her abilities, her limits –a dead weight for the guards and that she couldn’t protect herself. She didn’t try to be brave and jump in the fray which would cause more trouble. Knowing her limitations, Kelsea tried to better herself by learning from those around her, requesting training and taking on feedback. Her looks are also plain and while she tries to not let it get to her because she knows there are more important things in life, it’s something she’s self-conscious about… Because I think everybody has felt that way at one point in their lives. Everything about her was so relatable and I liked the way she struggled with the image she had in her mind of her mother versus the information she’s given.

There is so much intrigue surrounding the characters. I really loved the mystery surrounding her mother’s rule, but the most enigmatic were her own guards (well her mother’s). They each had their stories and her closest guard, the Mace, has a LOT of secrets. I really liked his protective nature, his counsel and the mentor relationship Kelsea developed with him. I can’t wait to see what other things are revealed about him in later books! Then there’s also the handsome Fetch who has his own agenda – at first glance, mercenary… But maybe not? What’s really interesting was that all the characters around Kelsea were much older than her – at least 10 years older, so it was quite fascinating to see her interacting with her seniors despite being their queen.

As the plot and pace goes, it IS slow going. The challenge is the journey to the Keep and securing her throne. But there’s lots of obstacles and Kelsea and her guard face numerous challenges. There’s threats from everywhere, including some freaky, tyrannical immortal queen from a neighbouring kingdom who wants to take over the world. Or something. Cannot wait for her backstory though.

The world-building itself is a bit vague, what with this Crossing business and not knowing the line between our world (like me and you) and the one created in the book. The writing also drags on a bit but overall it’s quite easy to read. The book is definitely setting the scene for future books what with all the intrigue, unanswered questions and slight glimpses into all the other characters.

Despite its flaws, I did quite enjoy The Queen of the Tearling and I’m now waiting for The Invasion of the Tearling in the mail! Can’t wait to see what happens next in Kelsea’s story and extremely intrigued for the backstory on this new world that Johanssen has created.


  1. I read this a while ago so I don't quite remember everything, but I really liked this book! Kelsea was weak at times, but she grew stronger as she neared her kingdom. I really enjoyed the relationships as well, and it was cool to see the way she interacted with people having been so isolated from the world while growing up. The background history certainly has some wtf moments, but I think people need to go in blind and kind of accept it for the way it is.

    1. I'm actually glad I knew what I was getting into beforehand. I read a few reviews which prepared me for the non-high fantasy world otherwise I would've chucked the book haha. I'm so picky with my high fantasy. But yes otherwise I did really like this!

  2. The world building in Queen of the Tearling was kind of crappy? I mean, I never really got a clear picture of what the Crossing is. Plus it was stupid that they lost a lot of the world's technology just because they loaded it all onto one boat, and that boat never made it through.
    But I definitely agree that the characters are really interesting! Kelsea's character is developed quite well in the sequel, and she loses a lot of the naivety that she has in book one :)

    1. Yeahhhhhh if the world-building was stronger it would've made for a much better book. I'm hoping that this leaves lots of development for book 2 though? Which means I'll enjoy it more.
      Now you have me excited with the sequel :D

  3. I think that's just how fantasy in general is Jaz - it's slow to start because you really have to adjust to the world and the characters - but once you get into it you can't stop reading. This definitely sounds like something I need to pick up ASAP - thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥