The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

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.

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ 

I borrowed the “Queen of the Tearling” trilogy from work on a whim since they had all been recently cataloged and added to our collection and had come across my desk to deal with the task of taking them out of processing and add them to our NEW bookshelves. The series had been on my radar before since before we added the books to our collection, I’ve had the books come in through the interlibary loan for several of the patrons at my library and it seemed like something I would read. I am so glad that I gave into that whim (I say whim, but it’s more like an unchecked impulse to borrow any book that catches my fancy or place an entire series on hold because suddenly have a need to read them again), because this book was amazing and if it wasn’t for the fact that I have to be an adult and go to sleep after writing this review so I can go to work tomorrow and work on my blasted cataloging project, I would become an insomniac and read books 2 and 3. Alas, I’m a responsible adult and I’ll have to console myself with being able to start the book on my lunch break tomorrow.

Now I admit there is a bit of some confusion with the book, which I feel find clarification will come as I move into the rest of the series and more history of the world is given. From what I understand, the book is set in our future (I read somewhere that it occurs during the 24th century) and the beginning of our home team aka the Tearling, was the result of a guy named Jonathan Tear (I’m pretty sure it was Jonathan) who crossed a turbulent ocean to create a utopia away from whatever woes he left. That makes little sense as we’ve discovered every piece of land mass on our Earth at this time, but that’s what the story tells us so I really do hope we get that clarification that I think will come I continue on reading. Unfortunately, in that crossing, somehow loss of life and supplies leads the Tearling to fall back to living in medieval circumstances and humanity’s vices and worst traits still haunt the Tearling, which is sad state of affairs. But there is magic to had in this world (don’t get me wrong I believe there is magic in our world too, just not the flashy kind that we find in Tearling).

Anyways, our main character Kelsea is a Queen hidden to protect her from the Mort Queen and her weak-ass uncle who wants to kill her so he can become king. I know the summary above says she’s a princess, but that’s wrong because she would be Queen as soon as her mother died, a Queen who hasn’t gone through formal ceremony of crowning, but still a Queen. But anyways, her uncle’s reason to kill her obvious, but the Red Queen, the ruler of a rival kingdom who has imposed evil demands of the Tearling has reasons less clear although it seems it’s because of Kelsea’s Sapphires (they’re special so thus the capitalization) and what happens when Kelsea learns how to use them. The Red Queen is also apparently magical and has found a way to halt the aging process (please tell us the secrets Red Queen!) and has dreams of taking over the world (oh goodie one of those villians) starting with her own Mortmense. Anyways a lot of the drama in the book is more to do with Kelsea securing her throne and dealing with the evil in her own kingdom that was helped along by the Red Queen.

Anyways, aside from the dystopian and high fantasy elements, I love how Kelsea grows as a character. At the beginning, you can see this young woman who can still be a bit childish, because hey she’s 19, BUT as she makes her journey to claim her throne officially and starts ruling and dealing with what that means, that’s what makes the story. Because Kelsea grows and becomes stronger. She makes the people who serve her acknowledge that and acknowledge that she is not a child, but the Queen. Plus she’s a smart woman who also cares about her people and wants to create a better society.

On a side note, I read an old article that say the trilogy rights or at least the first book has its movie rights bought. The article also said that one of the producers and the actress to play Kelsea will be Emma Watson. Physically, Kelsea and Emma have little in common because Kelsea is notiably plain and Emma is goregeous, but the heart and brains are the same and another article said author, Erika Johansen thinks Emma is perfect to be Kelsea and that it’s Hollywood so it’s unlikely that they’d let some plain actress play a character in a movie franchise that could make big bucks. Ironically, Emma who would like to avoid franchises since Harry Potter ate a decade of her life, can’t resist the Tearling series because she loves it so much which I think goes to show you how good it is if it’s making Emma break no-franchise role rule.

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