Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

18712886Title: The Queen of the Tearling

Author: Erika Johansen

Format/Length: Hardback/448 pages

Publisher/Date Published: May 1st 2014/Harlequin Teen

Category/Genre: Adult or Mature Teens/Fantasy? Dystopia? I HAVE NO IDEA, PEOPLES.

Source: Library

Description: 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…

2/5 stars —


The Queen of the Tearling was one of my most anticipated reads of 2014. And how could it not be? At first glance, The Queen of the Tearling looks like an epic high fantasy with a kick-ass main character, eye-catching cover, and how could I resist reading this when the film rights have already been optioned off, to star Emma Watson? I was thisclose to buying this novel — but for some reason, I held back. In hindsight it was smart of me to borrow it, because honestly, this was disappointing. It did have some redeeming qualities, though, so that saved it from me giving it one star.

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What on earth was the genre of this novel?

As I’ve pointed out before, I’m not a fan of mixing genres — like, for example, fantasy and dystopia. (There are some exceptions, for example, I loved the world Julia Kagawa created in The Immortal Rules, which was a blend of dystopia and paranormal.)To me it just felt as it the author had no idea what they were doing, and came across garbled and confusing, with little backstory and history to fully cement the idea in the readers’ heads. There is that vague mention of the “Crossing” on several occasions, but what is never explained was a) where was the Tearing in relation to the rest of the world — was the Tearling a whole new world altogether? Some part of the earth that hadn’t been found for some reason? and b) what led them to the Crossing in the first place?

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At first glance, The Queen of the Tearling appears to be a high fantasy, medieval-styled world. But it’s not. The first hints were terms such as “New London”, “New Europe”, and even references to popular fictional novels. But wait a second, they don’t have electricity, any form of modern technology, and spoke in a way that suggested more olden, formal times. And that’s okay — the author is entitled to write the novel however she sees fit — but for me, it did not work. Not at all. It felt forced, and honestly, I didn’t see the point of twisting the novel into something more dystopian. (Which, unsurprisingly, made it get pitched as The Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones; and I assure you, it’s like neither of them.)

It was quite a large novel — 448 pages — and, oh god, lots of it was boring.

The beginning of the novel, especially, where Kelsea is travelling to the keep. Yeah, there were characters to set up, conflict to establish… but a lot of the beginning was travelling. Through woods. On horses. Being chased by hawks, or something.

As for the main character, though, I didn’t hate Kelsea.

She was okay, I suppose. Neither really likeable nor dislikeable, but hovering in that grey area between, where some of the times I felt like shaking her, and others when I thought she did the right thing. She wasn’t a dumb character, but she was horribly naive, something I wouldn’t expect from a nineteen-year-old. I realize that she lived most of her life in seclusion, but what I couldn’t completely grasp was why Carlin and Barty — her adoptive parents — refused to tell her anything. The secrecy, I think, was what made her such a sheltered, and sometimes unlikeable, character.

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But hey! It’s not all bad — I liked the writing.

(Apart from the overuse of semi-colons, but maybe that’s just my opinion.)

Overall? I did expect more from this. Will I read the sequel? I probably will — there are just so many unanswered questions and a lack of world-building that will probably make me pick up the sequel. Would I recommend it to you? I don’t think I would recommend it, however, you might find that you love this. You might not. I don’t really know, to be honest.

You’re either going to like this novel, or you’re not.

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Have you read The Queen of the Tearling? If so, what did you think of it? And if not — will you be?


4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

  1. I actually really like genre mash-ups. As long as they’re done well, of course. And I had heard about this book’s world, how it’s in the future but resembles medieval times. It’s definitely an interesting way to do it. But yeah, if the world-building is lacking I don’t think I would enjoy it.

  2. THIS MAKES ME SAD. :| I was really excited for this (mostly because it’s fantasy and then there’s a movie soon with Hermione. That’s totally cool). But boring?! I HATE BORING. It’s the one thing that always kills me when reading. I don’t like long dry books. Bleh. I’ll probably still try this because I’m too curious but, expectations are being loooooowered.

  3. As vain as she was stupid, that’s too funny. I’m the opposite and a huge fan of blended genres, I really can’t get into fantasy novels and having dystopian elements helps to water them down for me. I can imagine how frustrating that is for fantasy fans though, you’d want to send if off for genre reassignment surgery. I was excited for this one too, but not going to bother. Not only is it long, but the world building sounds incredible slow and the MC needs a personality transplant. Thanks for the honest and brilliant review <3

  4. Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy this one, Kara! :( As soon as I heard that there was already talk about this being made into a movie starring Emma Watson, it went straight on my TBR! Although I’ve seen it on many people’s TBR’s, this is the first review I’ve seen for it – and such an honest and wonderful one at that, thank you! :D Personally, I like genre mash-ups, given that they’re done well. However, it sounds as though the author had no direction for this novel. I’m also sorry to hear that Kelsea was just a “meh” character! This is such a long book for what I hear is a boring book – so maybe I need to rethink my decision to read it…I suppose I’ll wait to read a few more reviews. I’m glad that you enjoyed the writing at least.

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