Sometimes you find a book that immediately grips you, pulls you into its pages and will not release you until you have explored every last sentence. The Queen of the Tearling is one such book. This is Erika Johnasen’s debut novel and she really came out swinging; she has since written a sequel, The Invasion of the Tearling, and we expect a third book soon.
The Queen of the Tearling is set in our future, however it is a future with a regressed society. There is little to no science, no printing press, and poverty is rife. This is the society that nineteen year old Kelsea is supposed to rule, provided she lives long enough to take the throne. She is being hunted. It is in the best interests of both the Regent (her uncle) and the Red Queen (ruler of the neighbouring kingdom) to keep Kelsea from becoming Queen and taking control of her kingdom, Tear.
We meet Kelsea on the day she has to begin her journey to the capital of Tear, New London. She initially comes across as feisty and spirited but also very childish. It’s not until she actually sees the kingdom, and experiences the realities of being hunted that she realises there is a need to grow up. During the novel, Kelsea undergoes massive personal development. She defies everyone’s expectations and truly becomes the embodiment of a leader, of a queen.
The wide range of characters included in this novel makes it a really rich reading experience. Kelsea’s Queen’s Guard is with her every step of the way and boasts some great characters. Lazarus (also known as Mace) is the captain of the Queen’s Guard; he is wiley, street smart and not scared to dirty his hands. He is, to his core, a very honourable man and as the story unfolds you get to see many different facets of his personality. The rest of the Queen’s Guard is comprised of the many and varied, all skillful and each adding something individual to the group.
This book has its fair share of villains as well. There’s the pathetic, weak and sniveling; the strong, powerful and evil; and the cunning, amoral and power hungry. The different types of villain in the story add layers of intrigue, you despise them but Johansen incorporates their point of view into the telling. You begin to sympathise with them; most of them anyway. I really enjoyed this about The Queen of the Tearling, it always helps to get to know the villains of a story and see things from their perspective.
The story was told through an exciting mixture of action and politics. The setting is brilliant, the characters are realistic and the story line was surprisingly original. I NEED to read more, I NEED to discover what happens next and I NEED to find out what event caused our world to become so backward. Overall, The Queen of the Tearling was a phenomenal read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy, politics or adventure.