The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen – Book Review [Lady Salvatore]
Lady Salvatore finds an exciting start
to a brand new fantasy trilogy in
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
“Incredible world building and fantastic characters! What a book!” – Lady Salvatore, The Founding Fields
The Queen of the Tearling is set in what sounds like your stereotypical historical fantasy world, vaguely medieval and on some mystical island or land. But once you start reading you find out you are entirely wrong. The lands of Tear and Mortemesne are on a landmass that was created due to an environmental disaster during our current time period. An enterprising man named William Tear took this opportunity to create his own utopia. This novel is how that land has evolved since, what they call, The Crossing. So while the novel feels as if it is set back in time, it is actually in our future. There are many references to today’s culture; such as ebooks, computers, and my personal favorite reference in the novel, Harry Potter. Though these things are mentioned Erika Johansen is very careful not to get bogged down in throwing references to the past. They are there as subtle reminders that this land is what was built out of one man’s desire for, what in this day and age is considered, perfection.
I really enjoyed the main character, Kelsea Raleigh. She is a 19-year-old who is forced to become Queen and fix the mistakes of her mother and uncle, who acted as Regent after her mother’s death. You see her change from educated young girl, to a brave Queen. She feels for her people and I agreed with her wholeheartedly in her choices made throughout the novel. Even though she was trained for this her whole life, she never knew quite what to expect. Seeing her grow as she navigates life at the Keep in Tear is very interesting and I can’t wait to read more about the character in the next two novels. The other characters were very well-developed, no Mary Sues here. You get enough back-story about them, but there are some mysteries too, which I can’t wait to find out the answers to. There’s Lazarus A.K.A. Mace, Kelsea’s captain of the Queen’s Guard. He is amazing at his job, but has a secret that I can’t quite figure out, I have an idea, but I’ll have to wait and see. The Fetch is another character that is a mystery. You learn something about him towards the end of this novel that just makes you want to know more. I’m excited to see the character development through the next two novels.
The story was very well paced. It gave the reader an idea of Kelsea’s history and life before living in the Keep. It also gave the reader a feeling of what it was actually like to be there, riding with Kelsea to the Keep, trying to outrun enemies. Erika Johansen also narrates through a few other characters’ eyes: The Red Queen (Queen of Mortemense), Javel (a Gate Guard), and Father Tyler (a priest). Her switching between characters is very smooth and she has a distinct voice for each. It is all in the third person, but it is very clear when another character is telling their story. I enjoyed reading the Red Queen’s view versus Kelsea’s; it shows what different rulers they are. By reading these different characters’ point of views you can see how each event affects them separately.
I really enjoyed this book. I could not stop talking about it at work (I work at a library, perfect, right?) and have been recommending it left and right. In one description it is described as a female A Song of Ice and Fire, which I can see, but it is truly its own story. The characters are well thought out and the world building is amazing. I love the idea of it being the future of our society, but not having it be the traditional dystopian. This is an interesting blend of historical fantasy and a dystopian tale. I really enjoy when authors take an idea and turn it on its head. Magic is interweaved into this story and I’m curious to see if Erika Johansen will go into how magic started in this world, or if it was even in our world before, but we just didn’t see it. I’ve been looking for another good fantasy to read, as I’ve blasted through some great series (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, Black Jewels and Tir Alainn by Anne Bishop, Kushiel’s Universe by Jacqueline Carey, and so much more). If you’ve enjoyed those, or countless other fantasy series, please give this one a try. I don’t know how I’m going to wait till the next one, The Invasion of the Tearling, comes out in 2015.
This is Erika Johansen’s first novel. The Queen of the Tearling was published by Harper Collins. Erika received her MFA from Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is also an attorney, but writing has remained a large part of her life.
Rating: 9 – Fantastic, not to be missed, I want a copy on my shelf.