I had been dying to read this novel. I’ve heard only great things about it, and so when I got my hands on it I was so excited to finally tear through this female-oriented fantasy adventure novel. Although this book was a great read, and has left me itching to get to the second instalment, I do feel like it was ever so slightly uneventful.
The Queen of the Tearling is Erika Johansen’s debut novel, and is exactly the swift injection of freshness and modernity that I think fantasy novels have needed for a while. The story follows Kelsea Raleigh, daughter of the late Queen Elyssa of the Tearling, who takes to the throne of her troubled kingdom at 19. Kelsea has been brought up by foster carers Barty and Carlin in hiding, away from assassins who try to kill her at every turn. Although she has always known that she will be Queen, the downside to this form of being brought up is that Kelsea knows next to nothing about the problems plaguing her kingdom, from the black market trade, to corruption within the Keep and widespread poverty.
My favourite thing about this book was that, despite being about a lost princess, it did not fall into a ‘princess character’ trap. Kelsea is anything but your usual princess. I loved that the emphasis is not on Kelsea’s appearance – not because I have a thing against pretty characters, but because it was nice to see her build her reputation based on her decisions and leadership rather than something she was born with. Kelsea is smart and knows what she wants. Even though she doubts herself, you know that she will deliver what she says, and I almost felt like I was cheering her on for most of the book, wishing I could whisper in her ear that she can survive!
Unfortunately, most of the aspects of this book that I liked are tempered by the fact that I think this book could have done so much more in terms of plot. Reading about Kelsea’s decisions as a new Queen was exciting, but the whole second half of the book seemed to be building towards an invasion that never came. I loved reading about the characters surrounding Kelsea, her Guard and staff, but we were only getting to know them at the end of it. I love an excellent villain, and the ‘Red Queen of Mortmesne’ definitely sounded like it would be right up my street, but we didn’t really manage to see the Red Queen do anything but think about Kelsea. This isn’t to say that the story wasn’t great, because it was and I still tore through this book without wanting to put it down, but I think that the structure was lacking. Most of the time, the story wasn’t really heading anywhere. We follow Kelsea around as she meets with arbitrary characters who didn’t really bring much to the book, and think about how to be a good Queen, but I would have preferred more action and a clearer plot.
Of course, I understand that The Queen of the Tearling is one book in a trilogy, and I probably wouldn’t mind this lack of plot if the rest of the series was already out, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on the second instalment yet, so I’m feeling a bit annoyed, and I think even a book that is part of a series should be able to stand as a good story independently – for that time between one book and the next. Once I have read the finished series I will probably feel very different towards this book, but right now I just feel a little betrayed.
Overall, The Queen of the Tearling is a fantastic story, with brilliant characters. You will be excited when you read it, thrilled to turn over the next page and start the next chapter, and you won’t want to put it down. But I would advise waiting until you have the sequel at hand so that you don’t feel like you’ve picked up a book that somebody has ripped the back pages out of.
I should add as an end note to keep an eye out for my review of The Invasion of the Tearling, which I’m sure I won’t be able to put off reading for very much longer. At this moment, I am surfing the net for the best deal.
And: make sure you check out my new instagram account, which is very bookish, at @inkdropsreviews.