Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They’d come to escort her back to the place of her birth – and to ensure she survives long enough to be able to take possession of what is rightfully hers.
But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders. Unlike many nineteen-year-olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and dangerous.

Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known . . . or be dead within the week.

This book appears to be quite the marmite book with people swearing up and down either that this is an awesome new fantasy, or it’s a big pile of garbage. Luckily I’d managed to steer clear of any reviews prior to reading, so I went in knowing only that there was a lot of buzz surrounding it, and that Emma Watson is attached to a film version currently in the works.

Let’s start by talking about the cover. I love it. It’s one of the best covers I’ve seen this year. Incredibly simple, powerful and effective. And whilst the plot contained within isn’t exactly simple, it certainly gives you a good indication of what you’re going to find.

This is a novel on quite a fantastic scope. It’s a mixture of so many different things – dystopian, fantasy, both young adult and adult, with a fantastic set of characters led by Kelsea.

It took me a little while to warm up to Kelsea, she comes across as a little arrogant, a little bit spiky to start with, but the longer I read the more I loved her. She’s bright and intelligent and determined and so overwhelmed by everything. She’s human, but she’s desperate to try and protect her people, to fix the wrongs that have been going on in her kingdom and be a good leader. However despite all her good intentions she is hampered because no one will talk to her, she has no real knowledge of the kingdom as it is now or during her mother’s reign, which leaves her blind and hobbled and trying to plug all the gaps in a sinking ship. I loved her fierce and wonderful she was, and I loved how insecure and unsure of everything she was as well. She is fiercely human, and you can ask no more from a character than that.

She is surrounded by a cast of brilliant characters. Fetch, the Mace, Pen, all of them help to guide her (and hinder her) and they are so brilliantly constructed. They treat her as their Queen, but also don’t truly respect her, and see her as nothing more than a little girl. It’s brilliantly realistic and wonderfully rendered and I loved watching Kelsea try to win them over, to gain that trust and respect that she desperately needs to try and rule her kingdom.

The world building was, on the whole, very good. I think what will be problematic for some readers is that because Kelsea knows so little, we the readers end up very much in the dark as well. There are lots of little hints at small parcels of knowledge that I’m hoping will be expanded upon over the series. It’s an intriguing world and I loved finding out more about it. It has beautifully woven together elements of a dystopian society as well as a more medieval feudal system. There could be issues further down the line if instead of more explanation the entire history of the Tear is just glossed over and we never learn any more about it as that would prove to be incredibly frustrating. However so far so good, and it provides enough detail to give you a grounding and idea of the world whilst leaving plenty of patches to fill in.

The plot itself is the third piece in the trio that make this brilliant novel work. It is fast paced and exciting, a tense work of art that had me racing through the book. It is also incredibly refreshing to have a plot unhampered by a tag along romance, and I think the book would be weighed down with that tagged on as well. There is so much going on, so much for everyone – fantasy, magic, assassin guilds, politics and scandals and a strong heroine at its heart. I absolutely adored this book. It’s the sort of novel I enjoy getting lost in and I cannot wait for the next book.

Read this if you enjoyed: “The Song of the Lioness Quartet” by Tamora Pierce. “The Girl of Fire and Thorns” by Rae Carson, and “The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy” by Kristin Cashore.

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