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The Queen of the Tearling: A Novel (Queen of the Tearling, The, 1) Paperback – April 14, 2015
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“Call it The Hunger Games of Thrones. Erika Johansen’s debut novel is a genre mashup: medieval fantasy meets dystopian future. . . . The setting, combined with Johansen’s deft hand with character and plotting, really does work. . . . An addictive and enjoyable adventure. . . . The Tear is just as easy to get sucked into as Westeros or Hogwarts or Panem.” —USA Today
Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.
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.
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“Johansen’s dark, dizzying time machine is what made this book impossible to put down. You’re in the twenty-fourth century, but also the Middle Ages? The implications made us see our world today--particularly technology and education--in a new light.” — Glamour
“Quite possibly the highlight of one’s vacation. . . . This spectacular debut is the first novel in a trilogy that is sure to entertain readers everywhere.” — Wall Street Journal, Books-A-Million List of Best Books to Finish Your Summer Vacation
“Call it The Hunger Games of Thrones. Erika Johansen’s debut novel is a genre mashup: medieval fantasy meets dystopian future. . . . The setting, combined with Johansen’s deft hand with character and plotting, really does work. . . . An addictive and enjoyable adventure. . . . The Tear is just as easy to get sucked into as Westeros or Hogwarts or Panem.” — USA Today
“The Queen of the Tearling tells the mesmerizing and enveloping story of an exiled princess who has to reclaim her throne while fighting back against the neighboring kingdom’s menacing Red Queen.” — Buzzfeed
“Queen Kelsea is the most compelling badass heroine since Katniss Everdeen in this fantasy epic set in a neo-feudal future.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“Forget The Hunger Games (sorry!): The Queen of Tearling is the best YA novel I’ve read in ages.” — Jezebel
“This book absolutely kept me turning the pages at maximum speed, while also soaking up all of the fun character bits. . . . Kelsea has a lot of emotional and psychological complexity along with her extreme competence. . . . A superfast, ridiculously fun read.” — io9.com
“A gripping read. . . . Johansen spins an engaging story with plenty of action . . . and intriguing characters.” — New York Post
“Johansen’s strong, efficient prose convincingly conveys the pressures and inevitabilities facing a determined young woman confronting the dangers of a violent era.” — Seattle Times
“[The Queen of the Tearling] has engaging characters and moves effortlessly through moment after captivating moment; I could not put it down.” — A.V. Club
“An impressive start to a series, Johansen expertly incorporates magic necklaces, political intrigue, questions of honor, well-drawn characters, and a bit of mystery into a compelling and empowering story.” — Booklist (starred review)
“Johansen makes an impressive debut with this ambitious fantasy adventure, which takes place several centuries from now following the collapse of civilization and mass migration to a newly discovered continent. . . . With a forceful, memorable heroine immediately thrust into a series of intense situations . . . this trilogy launch is still an engaging page-turner.” — Publishers Weekly
“A bright new entry in the fantasy genre. A heady mixture of adventure, romance, magic and mystery, this debut novel from Erika Johansen is a captivating work.” — Bookreporter.com
“The Queen of the Tearling is a gripping read with an enchanting heroine. Erika Johansen has created a wonderful world and I can’t wait to read more.” — Bernard Cornwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Pagan Lord
“Erika Johansen bursts onto the fantasy scene with a page-turner full of adventure, sorcery, swords, and politics -- not to mention a clever heroine with guts and conviction to spare. The Queen of the Tearling kept me up way past my bedtime, and left me wanting more!” — Helene Wecker, New York Times bestselling author of The Golem and the Jinni
“This book worked on me with all the subtle power of an addiction: by the time I realized I was hooked, it was far too late to stop.” — Lauren Oliver, New York Times bestselling author of the Delirium trilogy and Panic
“The Queen of the Tearling is destined to be a fantasy classic. Johansen’s writing is assured, confident and thrilling. I can’t wait for the next book.” — Amy McCulloch, author of The Oathbreaker's Shadow
From the Back Cover
A young woman.
An evil enemy.
A birthright foretold . . .
With the arrival of her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn is ascending to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling. Surrounded by enemies, including an evil sorceress possessed of dark magic, the young ruler stands little chance of success. But Kelsea possesses fearsome weapons of her own, including the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic. As an epic war draws near, Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny begins—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend...if she can survive.
- Publisher : Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 14, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 464 pages
- ISBN-10 : 006229038X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062290380
- Lexile measure : 860L
- Item Weight : 12.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 0.74 x 5.31 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #93,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2020
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Top reviews from the United States
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Firstly, let’s talk about Kelsea Raleigh. She is a very plain looking and naive girl who was raised in cottage, far from society, by an elderly couple. The truths about her kingdom and her family were kept from her and she has only the barest understanding of the politics of her time. She is meant to be queen and she has the moral compass to do it, but she’s not prepared when she first sets out to take the throne. I love Kelsea because she is different than most heroines that I read about. Yes, she’s special and she is the hope for her world, etc, etc., but she is not a bad-ass chick who can dual wield swords and make any man fall in love with her in one glance. She is a plain, plump girl who has a strong will but lacks self confidence. She forces herself to overcome her shortcomings, of which there are a believable amount, and do what is right for her people, even if it is incredibly uncomfortable or dangerous for her. She has flaws and weaknesses. She has trouble fitting into her armor and she doesn’t learn to fight with a sword well at all. She is not physically formidable and she does not have a natural presence that garners respect. Yet she commands the room and takes to the throne with a natural ability. She is one of the most realistic monarch characters I have read outside of historical fiction and history books.
The world of Tearling, and surrounding countries, is fascinating. The book presumably takes place sometime in our future after a great disaster has struck society. Europe is no longer a viable home and humanity has moved over to North America in the Great Crossing. Most technology has been lost, including medicine and the printing press. Books are nearly impossible to find and society is just beginning to redevelop past technologies. Gun powder, for instance, has not be rediscovered or reinvented in Tearling. There are references to our time throughout the book, with the mention of electronic books, the seven tombs of Rowling and The Hobbit, which I found entertaining and set the scene very well. I am very interested in learning more about what happened before the Great Crossing and what technologies there might be left to discover or recreate.
The “big bad” in this series is the Red Queen, ruler of Mortmesne, a country on the border of the Tearling. The Red Queen is a tyrant who rules through force and fear. She takes hundreds of human slaves as tribute each month and does who knows what with them. There is an undercurrent of despair running throughout the entire world. The poor, in the Tearling and elsewhere, are barely getting by and are forced to live in a feudal system. The high class folks ignore the poor and dress in finery, shopping the Mortmesne black market for whatever they desire, ignoring the slave trade completely. It is a rather depressing world.
There is also magic in this world. It is not overpowering. There are no wizards or witches running around. Instead, the Tearling is more like a medieval world with some magic thrown in, more like the Game of Thrones world. Kelsea has inherited the necklaces that all the Tearling rulers wear and these necklaces are imbued with some magical power. The antagonist, the Red Queen, also has magic abilities and she uses them to keep her people under a firm yolk. I enjoy that the magic is downplayed and only comes out for extraordinary circumstances. I also enjoy the Kelsea doesn’t understand the powers and is learning about them just as we, the reader, are.
The plot itself is very engaging. I found that the book started off slowly and meandered a bit at the beginning. In general, the book moves at a relatively slow pace for the most part, taking its time introducing the characters, the history of the land, and the development of Kelsea as a ruling monarch. If you want something very fast-paced and action-packed, you might be disappointed. That said, there are seriously tense moments in this book, with chases, fights, etc. There is definitely action to be had.
The Queen of the Tearling is a rather dark book. Though it features a young adult, it is not a teen book. There is graphic language, graphic violence, and hard subjects throughout the book. There are terrible, violent acts and truly saddening topics, such as slavery and abuse. The Tearling is a realistic society, in that there is strife, starvation and unhappiness. Kelsea wishes to improve the lot of her subjects but this book is realistic and serious. It is clearly not going to come up roses and have a full on happy ending. Characters will die, will be betrayed and will worm their way into your heart along the way.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes epic stories and fantasy worlds, even alternate histories. Kelsea is a fantastic female protagonist, so if you’re looking for a book with a strong, realistic female lead, this fits the bill. Just keep in mind that this book is gritty and dark, realistic in its saddest and most poignant parts.
Overall, this series has everything I look for in a five star book. So why am I torn between three and four stars? Because of the author's clear prejudice (near hatred) of certain groups and the fact that she uses this series in a way that is more divisive than uniting, despite claiming to want the opposite. This came about via the author's consistently negative comments about both religion as a whole, and those who believe in it. In fact, I think it's fair to say the author made the church into perhaps the biggest villain in the story. A few shining examples of the author's strong dislike and feelings of superiority towards those who believe in any form of God:
“Everyone’s frightened. But not all of us are dumb enough to go looking for Jesus.”
“Don’t you think it’s dangerous?” she asked. “All of this religious nonsense springing up everywhere?”
"They had studied the same history in school. Religion always rode on the back of turmoil, like a jockey."
"There was more than one culprit here - small-mindedness fed off religion just as surely as the other way around - but Katie couldn’t help turning her eyes north, toward the steeple of the little white church at the edge of town."
Believers are also referred to as being "fools with so little sense of self that they needed to believe in an invisible God who would peek inside people’s bedrooms."
Those are just a few examples of the near constant believer-bashing that goes on throughout this series - though it gets significantly stronger in book three than in the first two.
Here's my take on religion (Christianity specifically, since it's most often singled out in this series, although it's clear the author feels this way about all religions): people can believe in God without buying blindly into ideas of right and wrong that are based entirely on church culture and nothing else. Some of us have had personal experiences with a God who would be as ashamed of the majority of churches today as he was of the Pharisees back when Christ walked the earth (the parallels between the two are actually quite stunning). Some of us do our own research rather than buying wholesale into whatever is preached from the pulpit, and some of us interpret the books of the Bible the way they were meant to be interpreted, looking at them outside of the church culture itself and taking the time to read other books written by eyewitnesses who lived alongside Christ. Some of us understand things like the fact that Jesus himself stood for living by the spirit of the law over the letter of it (that's what got him into so much trouble!). We understand that he preached love and following one's conscience above any strict set of rules, and we understand that today's church has a culture that is every bit as strong as any national culture, and which influences the way its members see the world (including how they interpret the Bible and what they feel is right/wrong) just as much as other cultures do their members - if not more so.
Those of us who understand these things may be in the minority of those who believe in God (though I'm not even sure we're the minority anymore), but that doesn't make it right to group us together with everyone else or to refer to believers as dumb, foolish sheep. Even the author admits once (the only such recognition in this entire, believer-bashing series) that: "A church is only as good or bad as the philosophy that emanates from the pulpit." If the author supposedly understands this truth, why spend an entire series grouping all believers together and repeatedly attacking us as fools whose stupidity is society's worst enemy? Even the believers I know who agree with most of the modern church's teachings would never do or endorse the types of things done by believers in this series, nor would they endorse the thinking behind it. In fact, they'd be among the first to speak out against those things. I believe different people are at different places in their spiritual journey. I believe in respecting each person where they are at. I believe in hard work, compassion, and helping each other out. And I absolutely do not believe in ridiculing others whose beliefs differ from your own.
As far as fiction goes, I believe it is a powerful tool - more powerful even than nonfiction. Novels have the magical ability to put us in someone else's shoes, and that's a powerful thing. I believe authors have a responsibility to wield that power for the good of society, not in a way that encourages hatred, division, and feelings of superiority among select groups. I believe writers should use the power of fiction both to provide enjoyment for their readers and to provoke empathy, understanding, and unity with those whose lives and beliefs differ from our own. The author of this series claims to have that as a goal, both in the story itself and in what she wrote afterwards, but apparently her desire for us to love and show compassion to others doesn't include anyone "foolish" enough to believe there might be more to life than meets the eye.
Thus, I'm giving what could have been a five star series three stars. One star has been taken off for the repetitive, blunt preachiness that exists throughout the series (especially in book three) - a skilled writer can cause readers to consider different viewpoints without sounding preachy. Another star has been removed for creating a series that promotes lumping together various people into one stereotyped group, hatred toward that group, and division in a time when we need to focus on unity.
That said, if you can get past all the hatred towards believers of every kind throughout the series, the story itself is actually quite excellent and worth a read. I enjoyed it quite a bit by simply letting the author's hatred and bigotry roll off my back and enjoying the remaining content to the fullest extent possible. If you can do that, I definitely recommend this series. I recommend taking the author's hatred of believers as simply another lesson in just how deep biases can run, and how ignorant we often are of our own, to the extent that someone could be capable of writing an entire series calling for compassion and unity while repeatedly singling out one group of people as being unworthy of those things. We all have biases - it's just harder to see them in ourselves than in those around us. That's the biggest thing I took from this series. But the story was pretty good, too.
Top reviews from other countries
The dynamic between the characters is subtle, believable and really enjoyable to become invested in; they have the sort of appeal which slowly creeps up on you. Kelsea is about to become Queen of Tearling and quickly learns to rely upon her Guard, Mace, and must learn how to interact with her people despite being ignorant and poorly socialised prior to her rise to royalty. She's also incredibly flawed, to the point that some readers would certainly not wish to befriend her. She is childish, mostly ignorant and inappropriately headstrong in her opinions and seemingly interested in aesthetics far more than people. Her commentary on weight and beauty and the awful perception she has of the relationship between the two things is abhorrent to read about, although fleeting.
What I like about this story though is that Kelsea grows a great deal during the story. Her people are being shipped off in cages to the corrupt Red Queen ruling nearby and the rules of the city are a mess. She has to quickly adapt to protect the people she was born to rule, maturing as she goes, and figure out who she can truly trust.
I think the story starts slow, and some parts remain slow, but I really came to care about Kelsea and the soldiers of her Guard, namely Mace and his mysterious personality and Pen with his lovable loyalty. Some of the more secondary characters remain mysterious throughout the novel but really piqued my interest, and the lack of romance was completely right for a story of this nature (finally!).
The plot is good and the world building is unique, with a somewhat medieval feel to it, but it is difficult to place when and where it is set, with some confusing concepts throughout. I really hope the sequel lives up to expectations, and with so many unanswered questions I'm banking on those reveals being impressive!
This book wasn't exactly brimming with action and it wasn't a super fast moving plot, but it had me hooked from the outset and I absolutely loved it.
I thought Kelsea was a fantastic protagonist and I really liked the fact that she wasn't your typically stunning, perfect at almost everything main character. She was average looking, flawed and had her weaknesses, but she was also strong, not easily lead, and was determined to rule based on what she thought was right.
I thought all the characters were extremely well written and had plenty of layers. The world was also very well set up and somewhat misleading. I liked how we are initially led to believe it is a high fantasy, medieval kind of setting, but soon find out that it is actually a dystopian future.
Such an amazing book that I highly recommend.
This was a well laid out, rich epic fantasy. Satisfying in scope and detail, with an MC you could care about. If Mark Lawrence (Broken Empire) wrote coming of age fantasy then this would be pretty close to the mark but even that comparison is flawed as it is undeniably its own thing. Kelsea is a likeable enough protagonist with enough grit and intelligence that we want to rot for her and enough compassion that we care about her in turn. The world building is strong - set in the future in a society that has rejected or been forced to abandon technology and has reverted to a medieval system of rule.
Two criticisms: does it really matter what Kelsea looks like if it has no direct bearing on the plot? How could her being plain be an issue? Ultimately being Queen will attract enough suitors - you only have to look at the string of affairs the average, crabbed and horse toothed British MP manages to have to realise that power must have its own attractions for some *rolls eyes*. I don't think this adds to Kelsea being sympathetic and when you think of other great female protagonists - notable Tamora Pierce's creations - looks come into the matter very little: beauty is weighed against competence and intelligence, and found wanting. It was very over emphasised for something that didn't matter to the plot.
The other minor niggle was a low ratio of dialogue to descriptive passages. No great hurdle for me but I prefer a bit more dialogue.
Otherwise this was a lush, sprawling epic and a promising new start to a series. Not the best or most original epic fantasy I've read this year (M.E. Vaughan's The Sons of Thestian takes the top spot) but still an enjoyable read for fans of the genre.