Friday, January 16, 2015

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Pages: 448
Genre: Fantasy/Dystopian Mashup 
Synopsis: On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.

Review:  The premise of this book is certainly an intriguing one. It is a world with a society that rejects modern technology and has reverted back to a feudal state.  That is a pretty interesting plot, however, it seems unnecessary.  

To have a book set in a typical high fantasy world, to have characters reference genetics, or Leonardo da Vinci is distracting and out of place.  The fact that it is a world within ours that has shunned all technology as we know it does not really come into play.  It is most definitely about rebuilding the country and fighting off an evil queen, and it seems unimportant that it used to be a modern society.  

Not complaining, but this is a long read.  It took me absolutely forever to read it.  I believe this is due to the long introduction, set-up, and a bit of info-dumping at the start.  The action is limited to a few short chapters, but what there is is satisfying, with lots of blood and suspense.  The plot follows a fairly linear train of thought, and I didn't find this book to have too many plot twists or big revelations.  There are a few curious mysteries that are hinted at that I am dying to know, and they are presented skillfully. 

Kelsea is a wholly original heroine.  She is calculative and educated, someone who makes rational yet kind decisions.  She is a truly good person, who takes action to immediately stop what is wrong.  Unlike many female protagonists, she isn't attractive, or thin, or endowed with special abilities.  Rather, she is described to be quite plain. This adds realism to the book, though I find it to be slightly off-putting just how many times she mentions how generally unattractive she is.  As the story progresses, Kelsea grows as a character, beginning to grasp her strange powers and what it means to be a queen. 

Kelsea is not instantly trusted or respected by her guards or her kingdom.  She earns both those things, as hard won as it is sometimes.  Mace, her captain of guard, especially is tough to sway.  He is not remarkably pleasurable, though is a realistic and tough character who adds nicely to the story.  Another notable character is the ambiguous, masked thief called the Fetch.  He especially interests me, as mysterious he is.  And the Red Queen herself is one I want to know more about.  There is an air of secrecy and violence surrounding her.  She seems to have peculiar abilities, and is apparently immortal. She is desperate to find Kelsea and her magical jewels, for reasons unbeknownst to the reader, and is a cruel woman.  I cannot wait to see what is revealed about her in the sequel. 

I did not really enjoy the chapters told from secondary charcaters point of views.  While progressing the plot, the characters are rather un-enjoyable themselves and lacking depth.  Most of the secondary cast of characters are quite flat, with no hidden motivation or dark secrets.  

Over all, The Queen of the Tearling is rather predictable and ordinary, but shows great promise.  There is a lot of potential for the series to develop into something spectacular, and I will definitely be reading the next book!

3.5 Keys


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