BLACKPLUME

lover of written words

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

on July 16, 2014

The Queen of the Tearling“You win your people or you lose your throne.”

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.

The Queen of the Tearling introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen.

Personal Thoughts:

There’s quite a huge hype surrounding this book even before the released date. Describe as fully imagines and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine, it is given for readers like me to have expectations. Add the news about the film rights that been bought by a big studio production and the casting of Emma Watson as star and executive producer I am prepared to love the book and add it to my favorite reads. But as usual too much expectations ruin things for me. Though The Queen of the Tearling is an enjoyable read with it’s decent plot and promising world it still fell a little short for me.

One of the reason is because the book is staged to set-up a planned trilogy. Nothing much happens in-spite of the thickness of the pages except for a long and detailed explanation of everything and everyone that surrounds the narrator, Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, Queen of the Tearling. And despite all the details and explanations of things I still had a hard time picturing the world where the story is set. Leaving me a lot of unanswered questions about the world and events.

I understand the time setting being in the near future that has to go back in medieval times. I like that concept, but I’m not sure if Erika Johansen pull it off smoothly. There are some plot holes and real life references that I think are out of place or shouldn’t be in the story. Even Ericka explains in her narrative the existence of some of those things, it’s still felt forced to me.

The narrative of this book is more on telling than showing. A lot of things are explained in a form of story telling than actually showing things how it happened. And most of the times the detailed are not in the most important things. Usually I don’t mind long narrative especially if a lot of things are happening and the plot is moving fairly fast, but if the narrative will just consist of irrelevant things like what bricks are made of, or details of nobles’ dresses and their hair and make up – that’s just poor editing for me.

“To the east, Kelsea spotted what must be the house of a noble: a high tower made of red brick. Real brick! Tearling brick was a notoriously poor building material compared to Mortmesne’s, which was made with better mortar and commanded at least a pound per kilo. Carlin had an oven made of real bricks, built for her by Barty, and Kelsea had wondered more than once whether Barty had bought the bricks off the black market from Mortmesne.”

I like the fact that Kelsea our heroine is not the usual gorgeous, confident girl, but there are also a lot of things that I don’t like about Kelsea. She is an inconsistent character in my opinion. Not only her background doesn’t fit much of what she become, but also her own personality doesn’t quite jive properly. She has the making of a great Queen, being the caring ruler that she is. Her loves for her people and Kingdom is what makes her a good leader. She also not afraid of doing things she think is right no matter what it cost. But once in a while Kelsea also shows traits that negate the definition of a great Queen. Like when she is being judgmental or when her thoughts are simply offensive.

What does she see when she looks in the mirror? Kelsea wondered. How could a woman who looked so old still place so much importance on being attractive? She had read about this particular delusion in books many times, but it was different to see it in practice. And for all the anguish that Kelsea’s own reflection has caused her lately, she saw now that there was something far worse than being ugly: being ugly and thinking you were beautiful.

Other characters that are worth mentioning are The Mace and The Fetch. These two gentlemen are clearly written with emphasis than the others beside the main character and narrator, Kelsea. And between the two, The Fetch was clearly written with mystery, but in-spite of this I am more intrigue with The Mace. For me, he has more depth than anyone else in the story. But of course there are still other books to change that status. The Queen’s Guard are also interesting, I think it would be lovely have them more exposures in the next books.

Overall, The Queen of the Tearling was a nice attempt to contribute something new in the familiar fantasy ground. The idea of how a future society will resolved living like the old ways to create a better society is something I haven’t encountered before, and that alone is a worth applauding. I just hope that the next books will explore more of that world and concentrate on more important things that will make the plot more engaging and moving.

* This review is based on an advance E-copy I received courtesy of the publisher,  HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

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