“You were right, Lazarus. I see my own death, and exalt in it. But before I go, I’m going to cut a wide swath here, wide as God’s ocean…”
-Kelsea, The Queen of the Tearling
Before reviewing the book, I’d like to take a moment to admire its beauty. This book is absolutely gorgeous inside and out. The hardcover version (and the paperback, which I don’t own…yet) is so simple but elegant, regal, and dark; it fits the book perfectly.
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.
The Queen of the Tearling is the first book I’ve read by Erika Johansen and I never expected to fall in love with it as fast or as deeply as I did. This book sat on my ‘to be read’ shelf for around 5 months before I picked it up. I hadn’t read any reviews on it, that’s not why it sat so long. I was simply intimidated by it. Not only is it a relatively thick book, but reading fantasy books always takes time and patience to learn the interworking’s of this new world you’re being thrust into. You have to focus on the detail. How is the world laid out? Who are the people? What are their beliefs and morals? What is their government like? These are only some of the questions you need to ask while reading fantasy novels. I didn’t know if I wanted to invest that kind of thought and time in a book I knew very little about, by an author I didn’t know at all. I finally picked this book up, and I am more than happy that I did.
The minute I delved into this novel I was fascinated. I was enamored with Johansen’s writing style and the way she literally dragged me into her book from the first line. A day after I finished it, I still haven’t been able to drag myself out of this world. I’m not entirely sure that I want to. Johansen has a way of writing that keeps me turning the pages even when they were filled with descriptions of characters, places, or the world as it is in the novel. Since finishing this book I have read goodreads reviews and watched a few different booktube (youtube) review videos, many seem to think it moved too slowly or that is was superficial. I thought it was incredibly well written. It moved at the perfect speed for this book, I never felt that it was moving unbelievably fast or slow. I know how easy it is to have fantasy novels move too slowly and be overloaded with descriptions. Johansen described enough to give me the world, but not enough to remove my own imagination from it.
Johansen displays incredible talent and brilliant way with words and characters from beginning to end. There were many characters in this book, it could be difficult to remember them all. That being said, there was only one incident throughout the entire 434 page book that I had to take a moment to actively remember who a person was. Her characterization of not only her main character, Kelsea Raleigh, but also the more involved minor characters was fantastic. Each character has his or her own developed personality. She writes her characters to be believable. Many authors write perfection into their main female characters, sometimes without meaning to, I enjoyed how Johansen made sure to interweave Kelsea’s real flaws. Kelsea has real flaws that caused her real problems which helped to make her that much more believable.
About 90 percent of the book is written from Kelsea’s point of view, while the other 10 percent comes from other people involved. I like the point of view changes because they give me insight into this world I wouldn’t have been able to gain from only being stuck in Kelsea’s head. I like that Johansen didn’t make meaningless point of view changes, they actually matter in developing the plot. Seeing some of the story from the eyes of the Red Queen gives me different knowledge and perspective than Kelsea could have, and it was always important information.
By far, my favorite aspect of this book is that it doesn’t contain a romantic plot or subplot. Kelsea has a really good head and she knows what is truly important. She doesn’t spend time dwelling on a crush, or finding someone attractive and then suddenly falling in love with him. She shows her sexuality through her thoughts, but it never stems past that. She has no room in her life for romance at this point, and she knows it. She’s realistic. I don’t feel this novel lacked love or warmth by not having a romantic subplot. It just came from different sources. The warmth came from her relationship with her foster parents, and eventually other people. The love stemmed from her intense passion for the Tearling and its people. Not having a romantic plot made this novel stronger, and it gave her passion for the Tearling infinitely more meaning.
The mark of a good book, for myself at least, is that after finishing it I seem to be stuck inside of it. I have so many unanswered questions, and as much as I love that, I also hate it. I went into this book with a lot of questions and, by the end, some of them were answered while many were not and new ones arose. I have fallen into an serious book hangover because of this book, and the only antidote is to read the sequel.
Thanks for reading!