The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the TearlingThe Queen of the Tearling, 1Erika JohansenYA FantasyHarperJuly 8, 2014Hardcover448

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.

For those of you wondering, DNF means “Did Not Finish”

It breaks my heart when I don’t enjoy a book (I’m looking at you,  The Great Gatsby and Moby Dick), even more so when it leads me to quit without reaching the ending.

One of the reasons I may have been disappointed was the sheer amount of hype surrounding this book, and upcoming movie (starring and executively produced by Emma Watson). All the press about this book have raved about the strong female protagonist who is a queen in her own right and does not have the distraction of a love interest (as is very popular in YA novels) while she is trying to run her country, The Tearling.

Though I did not finish the book, I agree with that assessment. It was clear from the first chapters, and even more so in the second. Rather than go on complimenting Kelsea, I will plainly state that the main character was not the reason I put down this book.

The plot moved too slowly for me, and simultaneously, certain events seemed to happen so fast that I felt as though I was missing something. The premise had pulled me in, but the execution did not keep me interested.

However, that being said, there are definitely still merits to Queen of the Tearling. As I said before, Kelsea is being heralded as the new standard for YA female protagonists for her independence. And while I love that she doesn’t have a love interest, I think there is an annoying trend of people assuming that a girl or young woman is only strong if she never accepts help and forsakes all forms of femininity. Newsflash: strong is not a strictly masculine or asexual adjective.

There are plenty of admirable female characters who are more than a pretty face, but can also accept their female status in stride. And, most of the ones listed depend on at least a few friends (except maybe Elphaba, especially in the book as opposed to the Broadway musical).

My point is, Queen of the Tearling is making a counter-statement to the oversaturation of weak girls falling for alpha males in the YA category (and arguably in the Adult and NA markets, too).

Also, I am not trying to discourage anyone from reading this book. I still plan to see the movie because if Emma Watson is involved, it must be good. Also, I’m always slightly wary of reviews when choosing my To Read list, so if the book description (below) sounds interesting to you, give Erika Johansen’s book a shot. I’ve conveniently posted buy links under the book synopsis, too.

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