Review | The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Tearling1
Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Harper
Release Date: July 08, 2014
Genre: AdultFantasy
Pages: 448

Blurb from Goodreads:

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.

My Thoughts-01

This book was a mixture of likes and dislikes for me. There were certain aspects of the story that were quite gripping but there were also a lot of plot holes and missing explanations and character issues that I just couldn’t ignore. So I’m kind of sitting in the middle with my rating.

I don’t want to end this review ranting so the bad stuff goes first. I’ll try not to spoil this book but know that sometimes I get a little carried away when I’m laying my issues on the table so a bit of spoilers might slip through.

What’s Disappointing

Kelsea. There are two different angles in which a reader could see Kelsea’s character. You could choose to see her as this young queen who acted on impulse and doomed her Kingdom with a single act the minute she was in power. Or you could choose to see her as this queen with a fierce determination to right the wrong. Either way, she’s the Queen. And now it falls on her to lead the Tearling, protect its people, and free the kingdom from Mortmesne’s clutch. 

“You win your people or you lose your throne.”

Kelsea, in her good intentions, heroically stopped a shipment of slaves to Mortmesne. By doing so, she broke the peace treaty between Tearling and Mortmesne. And now another Mort invasion is just around the corner. But instead of gathering all her Generals and trusted soldiers to come up with a solid plan on how to defend their kingdom, Kelsea was busy wondering why her dead mother has this huge bookshelf but no books! Yeah, yeah, Mort soldiers are going to attack soon, she gets that! But first can she have some of her good soldiers retrieve the books from her foster parents’ cabin which is three days ride away? And why not have the rest of her trusted soldiers guard her while she hold audiences to let those useless nobles have a glimpse of their new queen? Yes Kelsea there’s no rush. You can always make strategic plans when the enemies are already at your doorstep, right?

How many times did Kelsea actually talked to her military heads? One. How many times did she think she’s plain and ugly? How many times did she compare her looks to other women? Many times… and I’m annoyed. Every woman wants to look beautiful, and that’s okay. But thinking about it over and over while there’s quite a lot of bigger problems to think about is just damn annoying. Like, come on girl, your enemies has got steel and canons and your people got sticks. Can we skip to the part where you’re trying to find a solution to that instead of worrying about your looks?

The Guards. What kind of highly trained guard sings songs on top of their lungs and gets themselves drunk around the fire, when they have a queen to protect, and knowing they’re being tracked hard by paid assassins? Answer—idiots. If these were the most disciplined soldiers they have, then start praying people of Tearling. You’re all fucked.

And who doesn’t love Guards with unbreakable loyalty? But in this book that good thing managed to get annoying too. Kelsea has got questions, and the answers could actually help her become a better queen, but these fools won’t open their mouth because they swore silence to Kelsea’s mother who is long dead and could no longer do anything for anyone. Great, so let’s have Kelsea blind to the important details and let’s teach her everything except for a huge chunk of history that could possibly make her understand what happened and then let’s hope that she can save us all. God, these bunch of idiots!

The Villains. The Mort Queen is an evil bitch that commands fear. She’s the biggest threat to Kelsea’s life because she wants Kelsea’s jewels for reasons nobody knows. But really, all she does is have sex with a slave, sleep, wake from a nightmare, think about all her failed attempts in finding and killing the Tear heir. Which I don’t understand why. She was sure Kelsea wasn’t hidden in Mortmesne, or in Callae, or in Cadare, so that leaves her with one place to search—Tearling. She had nineteen years to do it and it shouldn’t be so difficult. The girl was helpless, the people of Tearling feared her, and she has all these hawks trained for tracking and killing. Not to mention she has a full treasury to pay for assassins. But still she couldn’t find her? Exactly how big is Tearling?

The World. Here’s where my biggest issue sits. There’s a touch of uniqueness to the setting, yes. But it was also confusing as fuck. We have a medieval-ish time period. People were riding horses, using swords as weapons, has Queens for leaders, and there were jewels that wields magic, and some black sorcery. Then later the characters begun talking about ebooks and watches and Rowling! I was like, “Hang on, we’re in the future?” And the book was like, “Yeah. Surprise!” What the hell? How did this happen? And when?

“Carlin often said that history was everything, for it was in man’s nature to make the same mistakes over and over.”

I desperately want to know more about the history of this world as well as its magic system but the book doesn’t give much details explaining how the future became like that. Only that there were Americans led by William Tear who got into a boat heading towards a land called Tearling. One boat capsized killing all doctors and destroying all technological devices in it. So are you saying that all those who survived the ocean were all dimwits? That they’re all so stupid they chose to revert into medieval kind of living than try rebuilding technology based on what they already know?

Okay, that’s all for the ugly parts. Moving on to the things that somehow saved this book from a one star rating.

What’s Promising

Kelsea. Despite all her faults, Kelsea clearly has a good heart. And I love how firmly she stands with her decision no matter how rashly she made them. She was aware that she had made a decision that puts all of her people in danger but she doesn’t waste time regretting it or blaming herself for it.

“I am Death. I come quickly, I come slowly, but I am not cheated.”

Lazarus. Sometimes its annoying how he speak to his queen but one can’t ignore this guy’s importance as well as his admirable loyalty. Every queen needs someone they can fully trust. In Kelsea’s case, it’s Lazarus of the Mace.

The Fetch. Aside from being a possible love interest, the Fetch adds some mystery to this book. While there was too little page time for him and his gang, they still managed to instill curiosity in the readers’ mind. Who is this guy? Where does all his stolen money goes if not back to the poor people? What kind of magic does he wield?

Thorne. This guy has got no magic and no armies at his disposal like the Mort Queen but he proves to be a better villain. He’s devious plotter, he’s heartless, and he deserves all the hate—the marks of a good antagonist.

The Mystery. I’d like to think that the lack of clarity with regards to the history of this book is saved for the next installments. It’s one of the mysteries that I’m dying to know about. Then there’s the question of Kelsea’s paternity, the explanations to the magic in Kelsea’s jewels… and just who was that creepy evil summoned by the Mort Queen?

Despite my many issues with this book I find the mysteries enough to make me want to still continue with the series. Here’s to hoping the second installment gets better and would contain most (if not all) of the answers we’re looking for. Also, I’ve read some articles saying that there’s going to be a movie adaptation of this book. Here’s to hoping the movie is way better than this too.

2.5 Star Rating

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5 thoughts on “Review | The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

  1. I really liked this book but had the same problem: the confusing world building! One moment we have this medieval, “fantasy” setting and in the next, it’s this completely different thing. Book two, unfortunately, becomes even more confusing in my opinion… Hopefully, book three will sort things out.
    I thought the guards’ silence thing so annoying too. It’s one of those cheap devices authors use to create mystery around the story, and it bothers me. It’s just lazy, man.
    Kelsea was a hit or miss for me. Sometimes I really enjoyed her character, sometimes I kept rolling my eyes at her.
    I didn’t know there was going to be a movie, but awesome! And great review, Aweng 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Drats! I was hoping book two will shed some light to all my questions. I’m thinking of still giving this a shot though. There were just so many things I’m curious about. 😀
      I also didn’t completely like Kelsea, but maybe she’ll grow to be more likable in the next installments? I have my fingers crossed.
      And I’ve heard Emma Watson is playing Kelsea!

      Like

  2. Great review! I want to read this book so badly, and I think I will read it anyways despite the things you pointed out… although it was really helpful to read them. So thanks for posting!

    Like

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