Wednesday, 9 December 2015

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

As some of you may remember, I practically devoured the first book in the Tearling trilogy, The Queen of the Tearling. At that point I definitely knew that the second book would be right up my alley as well. Give me all the strong heroines, the queens and the fantasy novels. So here I am, having read the sequel and hungering for the third book. Thanks to Netgalley and Random House UK for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.

Pub. Date: 16/07/2015
Publisher: Random House UK/Harper
With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighbouring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion. 
But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling – and that of Kelsea’s own soul – may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out. 
In this dazzling sequel to her bestselling debut The Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen brings back favourite characters, including the Mace and the Red Queen, and introduces unforgettable new players, adding exciting layers to her multidimensional tale of magic, mystery and a fierce young heroine.
The first novel ended with the threat of war on the horizon and hence quite some tension, yet it has to be said that this tension doesn't necessarily carry on in the beginning of the book. Rather, Johansen goes back to Kelsea and her struggles with her position as Queen, really delving back into her main character. Kelsea, with all her strengths ad flaws, really was the best thing about The Queen of the Tearling and she remains that in The Invasion of the Tearling. She is not perfect but she has something she is willing to fight for, and that within itself sets Kelsea apart from a lot of other female characters. Even if what she is doing seems ridiculous or out of bounds, there is a reason for it and the reader can hardly blame her or not empathize with her.

The second book of any trilogy is always something of a filler. On the one hand it doesn't have the excitement of newness but it also doesn't have the tension of everything coming to an end. This 'filler position' doesn't have to be bad, just look at The Two Towers which is my favourite of the whole trilogy. In the case of The Invasion of the Tearling Johansen manages to make it both a continuation of the first book while allowing it to have its own story-line as well. There are a number of developments which were set up in book one and come to fruition here but there's also new things which had me continuously reading. There's also the fact that this book is still about Kelsea and her character, rather than move straight into a romance, for example. Johansen never forgets her character development and Kelsea remains one of my favourite characters of late.

I absolutely loved the introduction of Lily, a pre-Crossing woman who lives in a completely different world. In my review of the first book I mentioned that Johansen takes her world-building slowly, revealing what's necessary to keep the readers' interest but not rushing it either. By introducing Lily the world of the Tear and Mortmesne gains a whole new history and background, making for really interesting digressions. It also introduces another interesting female character whose position in life is completely opposite to the relative position of power that Kelsea is in. When Lily first appeared Johansen purposefully made it a little bit confusing but eventually the two story lines seem to beautifully come together. The Red Queen is also still a great villain and allowed much more room for characterisation in this book than in the previous one.

I give this book...

4 Universes!

Johansen takes a lot of story risks in this book which won't be to everyone's tasted but which make The Invasion of the Tearling my favourite YA book so far. As a follow-up this book does some great work and I really enjoyed it. I recommend it to anyone who loves Fantasy and female protagonists!

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