Book Reviews

The Queen of the Tearling: Spoiler-Free Review

“Carlin often said that history was everything, for it was in man’s nature to make the same mistakes over and over.”

Erika Johansen’s The Queen of the Tearling unravels the story of Kelsea Raleigh, a princess whose life has been spent in exile. When she turns 19, the Queen’s Guard show up at her door to escort her to the keep, where she will take up her throne. This proves a difficult feat, considering how many people are out to kill her – most notably, the Red Queen of the rival nation of Mortmesne.

So I’ll be honest: I don’t even know how to write this review. My thoughts on The Queen of the Tearling are just too darned complicated. When I started reading the bookI loved it. About halfway in, I hated it so much that I put it down for weeks. By the end, I was questioning whether I liked or disliked it while deciding whether to continue on with the series. Like I said, complicated.

The pacing and plot bothered me. For the first 100 pages, I didn’t expect a ton of action. But the flight from Kelsea’s childhood home to her throne was an exciting one, full of kidnapping and assassin attacks. It was a promising start to the novel, but it ultimately didn’t amount to much. Once Kelsea arrives at the capital, there’s a lot of political maneuvering and mystery, but – there’s not much happening. The chapters are full of dull conversations and decision-making, and that’s coming from someone who usually enjoys political intrigue in books.

Without giving too much away about the setting, I think that the “twist” is a little silly. Many have spoken about this in their reviews, but it just seems unlikely that this setting would ever materialize. And even if I did find it believable, the author treats this twist like it should be a huge surprise – well then, maybe build up to it! I feel like the way it was introduced was completely anti-climactic.

Kelsea is a believable enough protagonist, even if she annoyed me at times. I enjoyed characters like the Mace the Fetch. As far as enemies go, the Red Queen is less than formidable. She sits around brooding in her thoughts for the majority of the novel, and then there’s a weird scene at the end in which I think we’re supposed to empathize with her, but I just had no clue what was going on. Though I had no idea what was happening with anything involving the magic system, so…

And now my biggest peeve with this book: the treatment of abuse. I’m not one to shy away from discussing sexual or domestic abuse in books. And in Medieval societies that place little value on women and children, it’s natural that such things might pop up. A Song of Ice and Fire demonstrates this really well, while managing emphasize its depravity. But with The Queen of the Tearling, Johansen constantly mentions such abuse (I’m not even kidding, like every two pages) and never addresses it with any depth. Yes, Kelsea says it wrong and is appalled by it. But it almost seems like it’s included for shock value or to make the world appear “gritty.” It made me incredibly uncomfortable.

I gave The Queen of the Tearling 2.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. Now that I’m writing this, I’m realizing I disliked more than I liked. But the story did have potential, and the ending managed to scrape some emotion from me. So maybe in the far future, I’ll pick up Invasion of the Tearling.

Have you guys read The Queen of the Tearling? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment below!

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