June 23, 2015

The True Queen

The Queen of the Tearling book cover
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source/Format: Bought || Hardcover

Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen's Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch."

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved The Queen of the Tearling when I read it for the first time last year. It was the type of fantasy read that hit my sweet spot - complex characters, intricate plot, unique world-building, well-paced plot. (I talk about it with more detail in my review.) I knew I wanted to immerse myself in this world and story completely before I picked up the sequel, so I reread it - and found that I loved it just as much, if not more, than the first time around.

WHEN I First Read

I read this one in ARC form in 2014, as I'd managed to snag a copy from last year's BEA. In fact, it was a buddy read with Rachel! It took some time to get into the story, but then the turning point came and I was completely obsessed with finishing it.

WHAT I Remember

I loved Kelsea as a main character. She was young and reckless and untried, but she was just, wise and smart. I loved watching her kick ass in front of all those determined to see her suffer or fail. I also remember Mace being her Captain of the Guard, and her mysterious fascination with the Fetch. Plus, there's the whole problem of a brewing conflict with the neighboring kingdom...

WHY I Wanted to Re-read

I mentioned it already, but I wanted a refresher on this story, these characters and this world. When it comes to fantasies, the names and plots can get pretty jumbled up in my mind because I read so many. So, in order to go into the sequel with a clear sense of what was going on, I thought it would be a good idea to reread this one.

HOW I Felt After Re-reading

I really love this book. I mean, seriously, I remember liking it, but sometimes, I feel like time passing might change the way I feel. That was not the case! I really enjoyed diving into Kelsea's story once again, and experiencing everything as if for the first time. There were so many details I'd forgotten, and it was nice to be reminded of them. Plus, it was just plain fun to meet the characters I remembered for the second time!

WOULD I Re-read Again

Oh, absolutely. When it's time for the third book to be released, I'm probably going to dive into this first book (and the second too) all over again. Kelsea's story is one that I think deserves even more attention, and I'd definitely not mind experiencing it - heartbreak and battle and joy - all over again.

The Invasion of the Tearling book cover
The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #2
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
Source/Format: Edelweiss || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]

With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

Going into a sequel is always a really anxious experience for me, because I want it to be just as good as, if not better than, its predecessor. But I worried for nothing over The Invasion of the Tearling. It blew me away! It gave me everything I wanted after the first book - further development of the world, a conflict-ridden and well-built plot and further growth (and complexity) in the characters I'd come to love. 

The world in these novels is something fresh, marrying medieval fantasy with modern day society in a way that I've never seen before. Even though it still catches me off guard now and again, the way Johansen has woven everything together is impressive. I was intrigued in the first, but in The Invasion of the Tearling, I was just impressed by how it all came together. We get a look at the past, at the time before the Tearling even existed, and it's a fascinating glance into its origins.

Kelsea, fresh off the discovery of the immense power of her sapphires, has been having visions of the past through Lily, a character who lives in the era before the Tearling. These visions were confusing initially, but gradually, readers get to see how it all began, and how the Tearling came to be. By the end, these parts were something I craved to read, as I wanted to know more about strong, passionate Lily and the beginnings of this world Kelsea and company now lived in.

Speaking of Kelsea, the girl is still as fierce as ever. She's in a seriously tough spot after having stopped the human trafficking deal with Mortmesne, which was basically an invitation for the Mort to start a war with the Tear. And to top it off, she has to fight off all the conflicts within her kingdom and home, from malcontents to turncoats to magical evil. But somehow, in spite of a few mishaps and mistakes, Kelsea holds her own. She manages to act with justice and wisdom, desperately trying to ensure that her people are safe and well-treated. Once again, I found myself in awe of her strength, determination and courage.

However, Kelsea is not, by any means, perfect. She has a temper, and with the high stakes, it's fitting that she often experiences bouts of emotion. She's also young and relatively untried, and that tends to lead to rash choices and a lot of doubt. It is her precarious balance between the light and the dark that is most fascinating about her journey in this novel. It is especially obvious in her coping mechanisms (not all of which I necessarily approve of, by the way) that she struggles deeply, and I like that Johansen didn't hesitate to shine a light on Kelsea as she is -- even when it revealed something really dark.

Though it did take a few chapters, I wound up completely immersed in The Invasion of the Tearling. Johansen deftly handles her cast and plot, writing twists and turns into her tale in a matter that feels effortless and organic. I had no idea how things were going to go down by the end of it. And once we hit the end, I simply wanted more! So yes, I highly endorse this sequel for fans of the first novel. It's darker, it's emotional and it's just one heck of a reading ride.


  1. I really loved reading The Queen of the Tearling! I even ended up book-pushing it to my mom who also enjoyed. I think I've been pretty much ready for The Invasion of the Tearling since I finished the first book but now I'm even more sure. So so excited to read it soon! Amazing review, Alexa!

  2. Oh, I have this and need to move it up the shelf since I do love fantasy. I'm happy that the second is just as good, if not better.

  3. Yes, you must! I really enjoyed both these novels, and think you will as well.

  4. Oh, I love that you got your mom to read it too! Can't wait for you both to read the second one - I'd love to hear what you think!


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