Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling
(The Queen of the Tearling #1)
Author: Erika Johansen
Published By: Harper
Publication Date:  July 8th, 2014
Page Count:  434 pages
Source: Book Kindly Provided by the Publisher
Audience:  New Adult Fantasy, Dystopian


So as I was saying, The Queen of the Tearling was not really what I was expecting.  I noted similarities to Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series, but The Queen of the Tearling was surprisingly quite good and unique in its own right.  And what really had me intrigued was the fact that it was classified as a dystopian, but really had the feel of a medieval, high fantasy story.  And somehow, the author successfully meshed these two elements together in a most interesting way.

One forgets that this story takes place four centuries in the future, because this society has reverted back to medieval times following an apocalypse.  History sort of repeats itself as inhabitants of a decimated continent find a ‘new world’ via The Crossing (yes, think the Mayflower, only reversed).  You will find swords, magic jewels, queens, royal guards, evil witches, castles, power plays—all the makings of a great high-fantasy story—and this one did not disappoint.

As I mentioned, there were similarities between The Seven Realms books and this world created by Erika Johansen.  Both stories also had parallel storylines happening at the same time that eventually intersected towards the end of the first book.  Both stories involved previous Queens (the mothers of the protagonists) who seemed to be weak and vain and not respected by their people.  And both protagonists were exceptionally strong and brave, and new queens who strived to be a far better leaders than their predecessors.  They both had a lot to prove, and in similar fashion, we came to root for the heroine of their respective stories as each proves herself to her people, and to herself.

Kelsea Raleigh Glynn has returned to her realm after being hidden away most of her life at the request of her mother Queen Elyssa.  Kelsea never fully understood the reasons why, and some of her assumptions were eventually proven unfounded, as many revelations hit her upon her return.  However, there are definitely a lot more still left to be revealed.  Upon her return, she finds her queendom in shambles and full to the brim with corruption.  Her task to right past wrongs is monumental and completely overwhelming.  Does she have what it takes to fix things?

Kelsea was raised and schooled by appointed guardians, Carlin and Barty.  They were day and night to each other.  Barty was the more fatherly-type guardian who taught Kelsea many practical skills like hunting and all about nature. Carlin seemed to be the strict, uncaring ‘parent’ to Kelsea; she was charged with teaching her everything she needed to know to fulfill her destiny.  Kelsea never really understood why she was not raised by her mother, and frustratingly for her, many holes were left in the explanations provided.  Her burning desire to know everything was shared by me as well.

Upon returning to her queendom, she had to start from scratch…starting with earning the loyalty she needed for her protection, followed by the respect of her people to trust her in her decisions.  It was not easy for her to take her place on the throne, but that served to demonstrate her resolve and strength to her people…and to her guards as they swore fealty to her once they realized she would be different and might, perhaps, be the saviour the lands desperately needed.

All the characters were richly developed.  Aside from Kelsea, I also adored Mace (Lazarus, as Kelsea insisted on calling him by his true name), Pen and the other guards…and The Fetch…in all his mysteriousness.  There was also something very intriguing about Javel, and I suspect he will have more significance in the future.

There was no shortage of evil characters too.  The Red Queen of Mortmesne was the assumed prime villainess, but others began to surface as well.  And, the Red Queen herself wasn’t so black and white, either.  I’m very interested in where all of this goes.

What surprised me the most in how much I really liked this story was the lack of any real romance.  A good love story is usually a key ingredient in my enjoyment of any book.  Sure, Kelsea, also being a normal young woman, DOES notice the attractiveness of certain men around her, but much was also made of her unremarkable—unqueenly—appearance.  She was described as rather plain and slightly overweight, which is usually not the norm in most stories where the heroine is exceptionally attractive.  And so, like many young women of around 19, she was rather insecure in that aspect of herself.  But she also realized that her responsibilities did not warrant too much attention to such matters when other very pressing issues were at stake.

So, as I revisit my thoughts on this story, I find I really did love it, and I’m most looking forward to the next book in the series.  Even with the lack of a love story, there are mature themes and language throughout so I would classify this series as New Adult, High Fantasy, Dystopian.  Who would have thunk that you could mix all that up together and come up with something pretty awesome?

Thank you to Harper Collins for the beautiful, finished copy of the book.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.


  1. The premise of this novel has me really intrigued. I love stories that are a mix of several different genres!

  2. Oh wow! Awesome review! I've had my eye on this one lately and it sounds like something I would enjoy! It's already on the ever growing list I will be handing off to my friend in hopes of receiving it for Xmas! Great review!

  3. I've read quite a few mixed reviews for this one. Glad to hear positive remarks!! I am a huge fan of high fantasy. Eager to read this one!

  4. I'm definitely intrigued by this book-- especially after your review! Need me that does of high fantasy.

    Great review!

  5. Thanks everyone! I do hope you like it as well as I did. I hunk lovers of high fantasy would enjoy this one quite a bit. :) I think it's worth adding to your TBR's.

  6. great review, but still not sure if I should read it...

  7. No hint of romance, ey?! I think I might prefer that with what this book has to offer. Sounds like an epic read for sure! Great review!

    1. Barely a hint. But I have a feeling something will come into the story in the next installment. But it's definitely not the focal point.

  8. A sort of reversal of time and well-developed high fantasy characters -- sounds amazing!


Post a Comment

We love your comments!