Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen — Review

the queen of the tearling by erika johansen book cover Summary:

Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.

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: 4 Stars

I’ve wanted to read The Queen of the Tearling for a while now, but it became more of a priority when I heard that Beneath the Keep was coming out. So many of my friends raved about the series and with the prequel coming out I figured that it was about time that I read the series myself. I have been searching for a fantasy series that I could binge read and I really enjoyed this series opener so I am excited to continue with the rest of the series.

The Queen of the Tearling is a character driven political fantasy, so we get to know all of the characters pretty well and they all have depth to them. Kelsea was an interesting main character to read about. She changes a lot throughout the course of the novel and it’s a really powerful transformation to read. In the beginning of the book she is a sheltered young girl who is very unsure of herself. She grows over the course of the novel into a storng leader who is lead by hr moral compass and pursues justice for her people. I really love that she is described as plain because this book shows that a women have to be beautiful to make a difference in this world. But Kelsea is insecure and overly concerned with her appearance. While it is easy to understand that she feels this way because she lives in a society that values beauty, I do feel that some readers may find her inner monologue harmful at times.

The plot is pretty slow paced, but remained captivating. The pacing is inconsistent, fast at times with action, yet overly detailed in other moments. Kelsea inherited a kingdom that is corrupt and under the thumb of a neighboring kingdom. Kelsea has good morals and immediately begins a fight against the injustices, putting her kingdom in a precarious predicament. There are a lot of political themes to the plot, but most of the book focused on the characters and Kelsea’s ascension to the throne. I was pretty invested in the characters and the story, but there were definitely a lot of unnecessary details that bogged down the pace.

For a world with such a fascinating history and a main character who loves history herself we as readers learn very little about the world and its history. I really hope that we get more world building in book two because I’m really curious about how this world came to be. We do get to see how corrupt the entire country is though and while I don;t understand the history of the world I do have a very clear picture of the world as it is now. The book focuses mostly on the politics and the culture of the world and those aspects are done really well.

I think The Queen of the Tearling is a very strong debut and a good series opener, but there were several issues that kept it from being a 5 star read. I will definitely continue reading the series and can’t wait to see what happens next. I do think that at times the writing is overly detailed, but I hope the pacing will improve with the author’s second book. I absolutely love the characters and am already deeply invested in their stories.

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