Book Reviews

Review – The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Photo courtesy of
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The Queen of the Tearling

by Erika Johansen

HarperCollins Publisher


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.

Stars: 4.5 out of 5.0

Plot: 1.0

Structure: .5

Characters: 1.0

Language: 1.0

Gut Feeling: 1.0

I really enjoyed reading this book and it stayed with me for a long time after I finished. I felt that each element it presented added to the excitement of it and, whenever I was able to read, it was firmly attached to my hand. I will add a small caveat to this, however, and warn potential readers that other reviewers have claimed that The Queen of the Tearling bears an uncanny resemblance to several other books, most of which I have not read myself and can therefore make no comment. Personally, I felt that the book was unique and that the setting, an antiquated future where books are as rare as they were in Gutenberg’s time, was quite innovative as well as thought-provoking. I enjoyed the references to what is, for us, modern-day Great Britain and the United States. I felt that each reference was a sort of inside-joke/Easter egg for readers to savor.
Though Kelsea successfully ascends the throne, her life is still in peril. There is a traitor in the castle and Kelsea must dodge attempts on her life while working to turn the Tearling into a kingdom that has long tumbled into corruption and despair. I felt that this marriage of danger and politics was exciting and certainly added to the overall element of the conflict with the Queen of Mortmesne.

The only real lament I can make about this book is that sometimes it felt as though it dragged on a touch and other times it felt quite chaotic and thrown together. There was no real happy medium in terms of pacing, which is why I only gave half a star for structure.

The book is told predominantly through the eyes of Kelsea, but readers are frequently treated to the inner workings of other characters including Kelsea’s treacherous uncle and the Red Queen of Mortmesne, to name a few. I loved the range of characters in Johansen’s book and it would be nearly impossible to choose a favorite. I can say, however, that I felt a particular affinity for Kelsea, as our main character, and the Fetch, as the dashing, devil-may-care rebel (though I will admit his character was a tad unoriginal in the grand scheme of things). The Fetch reminded me of Cary Elwes’s Westley from the film version of The Princess Bride, but that is hardly anything to be upset about and I had a nice time imagining Elwes every time the Fetch decided to show up. What may interest readers is that though many of the characters could be labelled as “unoriginal,” their presentation in the book and their contribution to the storyline is decidedly different from what you would expect. From Mace, the steadfast leader of the Queen’s Guard, to Father Tyler, a bibliophile clergyman of the autocratic Church who is stationed at the castle to spy on Kelsea, the characters were fresh and enjoyable to read.

The Queen of the Tearling was well-written and the language used in it was entirely appropriate to both the genre and reading level. Johansen has a powerful mastery of language that is neither too ornamental nor boring and simple. Johansen’s dialogue was sound and believable and added to the tone of the story.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling. It provided a great storyline that kept me reeled in. At one point I went out to a restaurant and read through the meal (the Mr. Wench was working out-of-town that night). I finished in less than two days and only then because I have a “real job” that requires me to not read while on the clock. By the end of it there are still so many questions left unanswered (like “Who is Kelsea’s father?” and “What is The Fetch’s story”) but rather than feeling frustrated by it I am, instead, eager to read the next book. I will posit another warning. A few forums have labelled this as a “kids book.” The book is far from a children’s book. It contains explicit language and touches on themes that are simply not appropriate for a child. I feel, however, that a teen with a moderate understanding of the world would be perfectly okay with reading the book. I would encourage parents to read it first. But please, don’t let any of that discourage you. It really is a wonderful book and I would recommend it to every one of my readers and friends. I will definitely be visiting my local bookstore when the sequel comes out!


The second book in the Tearling trilogy, The Invasion of the Tearling, is set to release on June 9th, 2015 according to the HarperCollins Publishers website.

Prior to its American release, The Queen of the Tearling was optioned for a movie and Emma Watson, known for her high-profile film career and her position as the United Nations Ambassador for Women, immediately signed on as an Executive Producer for the film. Watson is also named as the intended lead actress, portraying the titular Queen, Kelsea Raleigh Glynn.

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