Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Review: 'The Queen of the Tearling' by Erika Johansen

Fantasy and interesting female protagonists are two of the main passions in my life and when they come together as beautifully as they do in The Queen of the Tearling there is genuinely nothing else I need. All that's left for me is to beat myself over the head for not reading this book earlier! Thanks to Random House, Bantam Press and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 17/07/2014
Publisher: Random House/ Bantam Press
Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother – Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid – was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea’s uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea’s 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother’s guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding... 
And so begins her journey back to her kingdom’s heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother’s legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive...
The Queen of the Tearling falls into a  number of categories and genres.It could be classed into Fantasy, Dystopian and Young Adult, with a strong argument being possible for it being something of a Bildungsroman as well. However, Johansen traverses each of these genres and their respective tones very well, combining them whenever necessary. As such we get to see Kelsea as a young girl, in a world that is clearly Dystopian and yet fantastical enough to allow Johansen enough freedom of invention. Kelsea grows as a character throughout the novel, with each new obstacle in her way adding or revealing something about her to the reader. By moving fluidly between narrators and between different influences, Johansen makes The Queen of the Tearling something that feels organic and evolving.

One of the strongest parts of The Queen of the Tearling is the slow world-building. This might sound strange since a slow build is not always good, but in the case of this book it really works. The reader starts out with Kelsea and hers is the only perspective that consistently guides us through the book, with other perspectives only forming asides. Kelsea has been kept in the dark about many things throughout her life leading up to the start of the book, so as she discovers more, more is also revealed to the reader. Each chapter begins with an entry into fictional history books about the Tear which gives both an interesting insight into some of the happenings of the book while also giving you glances at the culture surrounding the book. There is everything from war history to lullabies and it all comes together to make the Tear a country that actually interests the reader. Despite this it still took me some time to realize how Johansen's world relates to our own.

Key to what made this novel so enjoyable was the main character. Kelsea is most definitely a girl when the novel starts out and often referred to as such as well. Her realization that there are big shoes out there she needs to fill, expectations of her that scare her more than she's willing to admit, is very recognizable to a lot of girls out there. As The Queen of the Tearling progresses and Kelsea matures it's amazing to see how Johansen reflects the world and the people around her changing towards her as well. No one exists in a vacuum and for people growing up nothing is more important than to get confirmation from others for their efforts and it's rewarding to see Johansen make this a part of her world as well. Kelsea is a heroine the way heroines should be allowed to be: emotional, full of conflict, strong, kind and full of potential. Unlike a lot of films and books, The Queen of the Tearling has a woman with a destiny, rather than a woman helping a man reach his destiny.

This paragraph may contain a couple of spoilers but there's nothing specific enough here to really "ruin" anything. What I absolutely loved about The Queen of the Tearling and what I'll always love Johansen for is the absence of romance in this book. Kelsea does develop a slight crush on someone but Johansen never allows that to take over the story she's trying to tell. It's incredibly refreshing to read a Young Adult novel in which the use of a female protagonist isn't an excuse to focus on love above all. The Queen of the Tearling is about Kelsea and about her journey to discovering herself, not someone else. I don't know how the trilogy will progress from here but by allowing the reader to actually spend time with and get invested in Kelsea, rather than forcing them straight into understanding a relationship, the whole story is off to a very good start.

I give this book...

4 Universes!

I read this book within a single sitting and I don't often do this. Something about The Queen of the Tearling really fit with me and I'm thinking it was the strength of its main character. I know I'll be getting onto the sequel within the week and hopefully get my hands on the third book int he trilogy as soon as it comes out! I'd recommend this to fans of Fantasy and complex female protagonists!

8 comments:

  1. This sounds really good! I may skip it to the head of the line for reading. Thanks for the thoughtful review!

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    1. It's definitely a fun read! Get to it as soon as you can ;) Thanks for commenting! :)

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  2. I'm glad you enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling! I'm pretty sure it's on my TBR list although since adding it to Goodreads right before it released I haven't seen it around much. I agree that slowly adding in world-building doesn't always work but I love it when it's done right :) Great review!

    Zareena @ The Slanted Bookshelf

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    1. I basically requested it as soon as I could and then sort of forgot about it as well but I remember some reviewers with similar tastes as mine saying they loved it. Definitely give it a chance if you have the time! Thanks for commenting! :)

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  3. OOoh nice! I got this one last year, but still need to read it! It sounds awesome, though I am a little scared about the slower pace I keep hearing about! Hopefully it won't be too slow for me. We'll have to wait and see I guess! Great review!

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    1. The pace is not very high but plenty happens to allow for the slower pace, i.e. there's always something interesting happening! Let me know when you've read it, I'd love to read your review! Thanks for commenting! :)

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  4. very promising, I think i will wait until the trilogy finishes

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    1. I thought about doing that and then realized I didn't want to wait any longer xD Give it a try though when the trilogy is completely out! Thanks for commenting! :)

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