Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Source: Random House UK via NetGalley

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...
Review by Nara

So, I heard that this book was pitched as The Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones, and yeah, no. That's possibly the worst comparison I've ever heard. This book is:
1. Nothing like The Hunger Games
2. Only slightly like Game of Thrones
so yeah, don't get fooled into attempting to compare this book with those two.

That being said, The Queen of the Tearling was certainly a fascinating novel on its own level. While, admittedly, things got off to a shaky start, with the extremely slow pace just about boring me to death, at about the 10% mark, the intrigue and mystery flow in and the book actually becomes quite decent.

Some background: the world in which The Queen of the Tearling is set is in the future of our current world (as evidenced by the appearance of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books, and the name of the capital city being "New London"). There was an event in the past called "The Crossing", which wasn't really explained well, where a new continent appeared (for some reason) and people "crossed" over to that continent, leaving behind all technology (so basically, back to Medieval times).

Sigh. The world building. I'm torn about this, because it's both well done and terribly done. Initially, things were just very confusing. Only small bits of information about the world would be revealed, with none of it linking well in my mind. Is this a high fantasy? Is this in our future? Where did this magic come from? Where exactly are the characters now? But as you read on, you do realise that Johansen has built a relatively complex world, which I hope will be explored in the sequel. Because honestly, the lack of explanations about the actual history of the world was both frustrating and mildly irritating.

Kelsea was quite a likeable character, and I loved reading her snarky quips and intelligent insights. While she started off a bit naive, she definitely learnt to adapt very quickly in the brutal world of the Tearling. To be honest though, while quite likeable, she lacked the pull of the other characters. The point of view from which I most enjoyed reading was actually The Red Queen, who is the evil queen from a neighbouring country. Sure, she's evil, but that just made the narrative that much more fascinating. Other characters more interesting than Kelsea were The Fetch- the "King of Thieves" whose motives we're never quite sure of, Pen- a member of the Queen's Guard, and Lazarus/Mace- the captain of the Queen's Guard.

In any case, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing where Johansen will take us in the future with these books. If the world building problems could be solved, then this could easily be an incredible series.

Really liked it

Overall: 8/10
Plot: 3.5/5
Writing: 4/5
World Building: 2.5/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5