Reviewed by: Jo
Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars
Smuggled as a child out of the capital after the invasion of Tearling by the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, and the death of her mother Queen Elyssa, Kelsea has been bought up in hiding. All that remains of her heritage is a scar and a teardrop sapphire necklace, that’s she never to take off. Tutored extensively by Carlin (her adoptive mother) in the politics, history and customs of her country, it is time, at the age of nineteen, to return to New London and begin her rule.
But she has been in hiding all these years for a reason: her uncle, the Regent, has been hunting for her ever since the invasion. Kelsea sets out with her mother’s Queen’s guard, but is unprepared for what her uncle has turned the kingdom into, or just how much of an influence the ruler of Mortmesne, the Red Queen, has over the Tearling. Kelsea must win the loyalty of her guard, figure out what kind of queen she wants to be and navigate the viper’s pit of her court—all while trying to understand the strange power her necklace now seems to be emanating.
I went into The Queen of the Tearling expecting a medieval-esque epic fantasy with a badass heroine on a journey to take up her crown. Which I totally got. What I wasn’t expecting was this to actually be a post-apocalyptic/dystopian, set some three hundred years after “The Crossing.” (BOOM! That, dear readers, is the sound of this reviewer’s tiny mind being blown.) This fact only comes to light as the book progresses, tantalizing tidbits thrown in here and there, and I’m dying to find out just what happened during The Crossing.
The first hundred pages or so were a little slow going, but once Kelsea reaches New London, The Queen of the Tearling is a smorgasbord of political machinations, assassination attempts and power struggles. Kelsea is a fantastic protagonist: smart, capable and, due to her upbringing, has none of the vanity or ignorance displayed by her predecessors. She has to fight against the government and the church in order to do what she thinks is right, and while she has moments of doubt and frustration, I appreciated how intelligently she handles these obstacles. I loved watching her gain the respect of the Queen’s guard, particularly her relationship with her captain, Mace, which reminded me of Daenerys and Jorah in Game of Thrones.
Over the course of the book she discovers and begins to harness the power held within the teardrop necklace, that seems to be connected to her emotions. I feel like we’ve only just begun to explore the magical system and its mythology and I can’t wait to see how it evolves in the next two installments. We get different perspectives of the kingdom, and magic, through sections from other characters points of view. I really liked this, as unlike Kelsea, these characters haven’t been in isolation and gave me an emotional insight into the horrors commented during her absence.
Romance wise there isn’t much; there’s a hint but that’s really all it is. I was actually okay with that, as I really liked that all of Kelsea’s focus was on her responsibilities and threats to her kingdom. That doesn’t mean I’d be adverse to more in the future as she becomes more established though.
I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the awesome in this review, but absolutely, positively, The Queen of the Tearling is one of my favorite reads of the year. It took me by surprise and sweep me off into this world completely. Bring on book two!
Sexual content: references to rape, sexual abuse, sexual slavery, child abuse.