Author: Erika Johansen
Genre: Fantasy YA
First Published: 2014
Page Count: 434
Film/ TV Adaptation: No
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Note: Book 1 of an untitled series
A lukewarm start unfolds into a tantalizing fantasy story that will leave readers hungry for answers.
*Main Character *Mysterious Plot
*Dull Beginning *Time Period?
“You win your people or you lose your throne.” Kelsea has reached the point in her life, her nineteenth birthday, when she has been told she will take over as the queen of the Tearling. She has been in hiding since birth to avoid detection from the many people who want to see her dead before she can be crowned. Though her time in hiding was spent preparing her for the rigors of life as a queen, Kelsea is faced with unimaginable danger, cutthroat politics, and the reality that her kingdom has sanctioned, under her mother’s rule, inhuman policies in order to please an evil sorceress in a neighboring kingdom. Kelsea must decide whether she will be a queen of change who can right the wrongs of the many rulers, including her mother, before her or whether she should take the easier road and allow the injustices in her new home to continue unobstructed.
The Queen of the Tearling begins the book with questions and they just keep coming. No, these questions will mostly not be answered in this first book in the series. However, Johansen weaves a tale where the questions are meaningful and these questions are the reason you become entangled in Kelsea’s journey as the queen. Who is Kelsea’s father? What is the history behind how these kingdoms were formed? What is the deal with Kelsea’s matching, seemingly magical sapphire necklaces? We get hints here and there, but no solid answers, and as the story unfolds, the need for these answers becomes more important. Aside from the mysterious plot, I was very impressed with the main character Johansen had created. She’s described as homely and a bit clumsy, but she carries herself with confidence and is a powerful public speaker that reveals her intelligence and kind heart. I was waiting for the author to turn that description on its head once Kelsea became queen with some magical makeover that would toss out that homely physical description. A lot of authors start off their books with unattractive heroines, but it’s very tempting to transform said heroine into someone who is beautiful inside and out. However, Johansen stayed true to her character and never made Kelsea’s story and her successes about her appearance. It’s refreshing to have a heroine that isn’t defined by her looks and this creates a powerhouse of a female main character because we respect Kelsea for her actions, not her body.
Initially, the book was difficult to get into because of the many questions that are raised. I still have yet to fully understand the time period this book takes place in. It felt medieval, but then there are references to J.K. Rowling and the like, which told me this was some kind of futuristic society possibly formed by an apocalyptic event. When the setting is unclear, it makes it hard to invest in the book because you have no idea where to place yourself in time. We didn’t know why Kelsea had so many people who wanted her dead and why she had to live in hiding. And, then again, what’s the deal with those necklaces? I felt like I was on autopilot as I read, until some of my questions started to get answers and I got a better sense of the setting. It’s not as if there isn’t any action in the beginning of the story either; it was just hard to invest in something you didn’t understand.
There was a turning point in the book where I finally realized I was really enjoying the book and I wasn’t just reading to finish what I started. Johansen’s story becomes more intense and the stakes are raised so high that you can’t help but feel the need to keep flipping through the book until the end. And since we are left with more burning questions then satisfying answers, I will be grabbing a copy of book two in the near future.