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Friday, August 1, 2014

ARC Review: Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

There are a lot of ways this book has surprised me, but in the end I know this: the book is AMAZING.

Title: The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen
Release Date: July 8th 2014 (US) / July 17th 2014 (UK)
Published by: HarperTeen / Transworld Books
Source: Publisher
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository


Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother - Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid - was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea's uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea's 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother's guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...

And so begins her journey back to her kingdom's heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother's legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive...

A 19 year old who lived all her life in the forest, hidden, suddenly thrust into a world she has prepared for all her life but knew nothing of. Kelsey was raised strictly, in secret, and she was suddenly given a title she didn't want, a title that can get her killed as soon as she step out of the forest she grew up in. I immediately liked her. From the start it was established that Kelsey, at best, is a plain looking girl, and even though she had her own insecurities to deal with in terms of appearance, she's a girl vastly unlike her mother: witty, strong with a tough resolve and a kind heart. This is one of the books I've read in a while where the girl is not "pretty" or looking fabulous or stunningly beautiful and it's totally okay. Beauty is not an advantage for her, but what Kelsey lacks in physical appearance, her wit and intelligence makes up for. With her, you believe that appearance isn't everything. And in this book, it's not.

Queen of the Tearling had an ensemble of lively, supporting characters that helped drive the story forward and in good time. A good example is The Queen's Guard. Among them, The Mace, Lazarus, is one of my favorites. He's an unexpected ally that will make you think twice if it's alright to make him stay or let him go. He's fiercely loyal to Kelsey, and more than being a guard, he's like a mentor and adviser to her. The Mace is feared throughout Tearling, and even in Mortmesne, and with good reason. He's not the amiable, caring type. He's a fearsome warrior who has his own demons to battle with. but Lazarus had unexpected, surprise moments that endears him to a reader like me. He's the closest thing to a father Kelsey will ever have.

Another interesting character that caught my eye in this novel is The Fetch, for reasons quite similar and still somewhat different to why I liked Lazarus. He's a very mysterious character, who warrants a close, second glance. His real age, heritage and character is unknown, whose alliance with Kelsey is still somewhat unclear and undefined. Is he a friend? A foe masquerading as a knight in shining armor? He might have saved her life, but will he be the one to kill her when she fails to help her Kingdom? The Fetch hopes for a good Queen to lead the Tearling, and he expects a lot from Kelsey. He's straightforward and inscrutable, ruthless and playful, extremely clever, crafty and powerful. It's like he's born out of the assumptions and guesses of people, because there's nothing about him that seemed true. He reminds me of the Darkling! I'd also like to know what it means for Kelsey when it's time for the Fetch to get his due for saving her life. Is anyone also keeping an eye to Pen? Was it just me or is he also another potential love interest for the Queen?

I've always stressed how important world building is in a book, and sadly that is what Queen of the Tearling felt lacking for me. It's not that the author did not make an effort to build a world good enough to grasp, as the explanation of the "Crossing" helped, but the time references used added to the confusion instead of establishing it. A world where technology took a huge step backwards, where books are scarce and warfare and invading was the norm. The references to the present we have now (J.K. Rowling books, for example) didn't seem to fit the world of the Tearling, making it hard to put down the exact time the story takes place. What kind of age? Modernly backwards? Medieval? Were these Kingdoms so isolated that whatever they lost (doctors, equipments, gunpowder and other modern amenities) cannot be recovered or remade? What kind of world really is it?

But Queen of the Tearling had a good mix of intrigue and conflict, and vile villains you'd loathe in an instant. The author took time to dive into the perspectives of these characters as well. The Red Queen, ambitious, evil and heartless, with her own agendas and problems to solve in a Kingdom powerful enough to destroy everything in its path. Arlen Thorne, the scumbag with a black soul who treats the people of the Tearling as nothing but mere commodity, a tool to get rich, to name a few. The story also touched based with slavery, cruelty, the never ending struggle for power in a Kingdom slowly deteriorating, a Kingdom left to rot under incompetent hands. Even Kelsey's struggle to accept the fact that what she knew wasn't true, and that certain truths about her mother, her guardians, their roles in her life, were sometimes tough and hard to swallow, but she knew she had to move forward and strive for the best for the sake of her Kingdom.

There's a lot in this book that I loved, hated and got confused of, but it made my reading experience rich, memorable and enjoyable. From page one, I found myself being swept along by the pace and what the story has to offer. What existed for me is just the story of a girl, one filled with magic, trials and a constant battle for a Kingdom left to ruin and fall into the hands of a tyrant. How can one girl change the fate of a Kingdom that is doomed to be subservient? You have to read this book to find out how a nineteen year old girl starts her journey to become the only hope for a Kingdom she didn't know how to lead, how she grows up and becomes a force to recon with in such a delightful, fast paced, character driven story.

Still, it's obvious how much effort it took to give birth to this novel. A great start for a debut author!

Content (plot, story flow, character):
1 star off really because of the shaky world building. Is the proper term modernly medieval? The author tried to throw conflicting time references and ideas but it just muddled the world idea further, so it's hard to place things in the world of the Tearling. But the story, the characters and the conflict more than made up for it! I can truthfully say that I loved reading this book.

Shining: Worthy of a Goddess' Love!

The cover for the UK edition.

Book Cover:
I prefer this cover more than the US version, because I think this one properly shows what it's like for Kelsey being the Queen.


  1. This book looks promising. I heard it will be made into a movie as well? Great review!

    1. Hey Julie! Yep, Emma Watson will be starring in the movie. Hope you get to read Queen of the Tearling soon! :)


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