This weekend I fell in love with Erika Johansen’s The Queen of the Tearling.
I went on a browsing expedition at McKay’s—a huge used bookstore in Knoxville—and stumbled across this book in the Fantasy section. The Queen of the Tearling had an attractive red cover, the words “National Bestseller” on it, and positive blurbs written by Lauren Oliver and Jezebel, so I thought that it was worth a shot.
This. Book. Is. So. Good.
The Queen of the Tearling is the first novel in a fantasy trilogy. In the book’s opening, members of the Queen’s Guard collect 19-year-old Kelsea Raleigh from her foster parents’ home because she must be crowned Queen of the Tearling. Kelsea has been primed for queenly responsibilities, but she has also been hidden and isolated her entire life, so she is not totally prepared for the world she is entering.
Once Kelsea leaves her childhood home, she is in danger, as two formidable enemies attempt to have her killed before she can officially accept power. Sadly for Kelsea, the attempts to have her killed continue after she is crowned. Sadly for her enemies, Kelsea is an exceptional queen and she’s definitely not an easy mark.
Throughout this book Kelsea learns how to forge a path using what she learned from her foster parents, what she has learned about her mother, and what she has learned about her own strength. She comes into her own, which is a considerable feat considering the number of attacks made against her, and how most, if not all, of the males in the book underestimate her at one time or another.
Blurbs on the book frequently reference The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter. I would add another comparison, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which you might remember as the subject of my first blog post. Like Uprooted, The Queen of the Tearling features strong young womanhood, and suggests how these women not only defy the expectations of those around them but also learn to value themselves and what they are capable of. This book also contains supernatural and magical elements, which I loved, and the world that Johansen creates is both familiar and inventive. (Case in point: Kelsea references J. K. Rowling as an author of the past, but in the whole country of the Tearling, there are only two doctors. As Glamour notes in their blurb, “You’re in the twenty-fourth century, but also the Middle Ages? The implications made us see our world today—particularly technology and education—in a new light.”)
Unlike Uprooted, this book is part of a series, which I am deliriously happy about. There are still so many questions to be answered, and spoiler alert, I’ve already checked out the second book in the series from my library.
This is an adventurous, mesmerizing read and I loved every minute of it.
Perfect If You: want an inspiring read about how women are saving the day; are looking for a book to fill the void left when you finished the last Hunger Games/Harry Potter/Uprooted book; want to sink into a good versus evil read, with lots of gray to contemplate, too.
Not Recommended if You: Hate any/all of the books recommended in the above category; are turned off by books which contain magic (who are you?!!); are really turned off by gore
Also Check Out: See recommendations in above heading. I’m also thinking Jessica Jones, the Neflix series. Fair warning, I’ve only seen 5-6 episodes of it, but both Jessica and Kelsea, of The Queen of the Tearling, feel the weight of responsibility and a power that others may not understand.
Give me that HEA, please.
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