Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review & Giveaway: The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen!

Release date: July 8, 2014
Published by: Harper
Source: Digital ARC / Edelweiss

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.


I'm sure most of you have seen it, the 
"female Game of Thrones" marketing ploy. I'm sure many of you also know that this novel will be adapted into a film starring Emma Watson. Knowing these things in advance, I'm worried that many readers are going to give this story impossible-to-meet standards. While it's in no way comparable to Game of Thrones' massive scale of epicness, it is still a fantastic fantasy novel with an admirable heroine and a great cast of supporting characters.

I was genuinely surprised by how entirely this story consumed me and while I found the beginning to be a bit slow, it wasn't long until only sleep and food could pry me away from the Tearling Queen and her journey to secure her seat on the throne.

I quickly fell in love with Kelsea, the heiress who was pulled out of hiding to take the place of her deceased mother, the Queen. Despite her young age she was an honest, level-headed, devoted leader who was a much needed savior for a crumbling kingdom. Her actions and feelings toward her people were uplifting and heartwarming and I can't imagine anyone not enjoying her character (although I've been surprised before).

I was also impressed by the development of the villains in this story. They weren't the evil, untouchable, pretentious characters I was expecting. Yes, their actions clearly fell in the evil category and I can't say they were likable by any means, but Johansen did a wonderful job of humanizing them and showing that they weren't fearless and were aware of their flaws. 

The Queen of the Tearling has plenty of action and intrigue, betrayal and conspiracy, and many characters to love and hate. It felt as if it ended all too quickly and I immediately thought, "When's the sequel?".

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By Erika Johansen

One morning in 2007, I woke up from a dream I could barely remember. The only image that really stuck was that of a group of people in ships going over a horizon, and the distinct idea that they had no idea what they would find on the other side. Fall of 2007 was a good time for me; I was in my second year of law school and felt that I was doing all right there. I had no idea that the financial collapse was less than a year away. The spirit in which I began this book was therefore one of extreme idealism. I wanted to write a book about a kingdom that was dying for leadership, and what would happen once that leadership came along. 

Most of the role models in my life have come from fiction, rather than the real world, and when I began this book, I was conscious of feeling that so many of the female protagonists in contemporary mainstream fiction were either stunningly beautiful or almost obsessively invested in their romantic lives, or both. Most young women I know do not consider themselves to be stunningly beautiful – on the contrary, many grapple with issues surrounding their appearance, and I believe that for most women, focusing almost exclusively on romantic and sexual relationships is not a formula for long term fulfillment in life. While this setup makes for good escapist reading – an important thing – I don’t think such protagonists ultimately give most women anyone to look towards for inspiration.

I wanted to create a heroine who has all the problems of a normal young woman, but who also has her priorities straight. Kelsea worries about being plain and overweight in a society that values beauty; she also has a serious crush on an older and unreachable man. But while Kelsea feels these things keenly, neither of them ever takes the front seat, because she has more important problems to worry about – problems that impact lives beyond her own – and she simply doesn’t have time to dwell on her own romantic life.  Whether Kelsea works as a heroine is for the reader to judge, but I’m at least confident that her priorities are in order.  

In 2008, as the economy collapsed and the world got a bit darker, the book began to darken as well. By 2009, when my class was preparing to graduate and take the bar exam, law firms had more or less stopped hiring new lawyers. Even if we passed the bar, there were not going to be nearly enough jobs, and many of us were carrying crushing student debt. And so, almost by osmosis, the problems of the Tearling became much more unpleasant than I had originally conceived them, much more rooted in entrenched human greed and an endemic disregard for the misery of others. It was also around this time that I began thinking of the book not as a discrete story, but as only the beginning of a larger one. The Tearling’s problems were simply too complex to resolve in a single book, and I also suspected that a heroine as morally good as Kelsea simply couldn’t remain that way for long, not in such a nasty world. She would have to undergo a dark journey of the soul, just like the rest of us, and to do it justice would take far more than four hundred pages. 

At that point, I also began to think more deeply about the Crossing itself. Originally, it was really a plot device: a tiny sliver of humanity had left its old home to make a new life in an unknown land.  I chose this route because I really wanted to set the book in the future, rather than in the medieval past, and because I was so enraptured, still, with my dream image of the ships crossing the horizon. But the more I thought about it, the more interested I became in the conditions that would have pushed a group of people to cast off on a ship into an uncertain future. Was it possible that the world of the pre-Crossing past could have been even worse than that of the present-day Tearling? The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was not only possible, but likely, and I began looking for a way to tell the story of William Tear and his utopians, what they fled from and how their dreams of a clean slate could have gone so wrong.  Essentially, I decided, the Crossing would come after the problems we currently face (poverty, greed, intolerance, lack of education, erosion of privacy) had been allowed to compound and fester in an increasingly technology-dependent world. And so I took my own stab at writing about America’s dystopian future. 


Maji Bookshelf said...

all i've been reading are raving reviews of this book! I am excited for it. I like how the villains aren't pure evil and there is complexity. I can't wait to see the movie development go further! Emma as the main protagonist makes me squeal!

- Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

Jessica Haluska said...

Great review/post, Cat! Despite the issues I had with this book, I still enjoyed the story enough to order a hardcopy. It showed up yesterday, and it is BEAUTIFUL. I think this series has the potential to become an addiction ;) I NEED to know what's going on with the Red Queen and that demon thing. NEED.

Addicted2Heroines said...

Juhina - I have no doubt this will make a great movie =)

Jessica - Great idea! I'm going to order the hardcover too.

Tabitha (Not Yet Read) said...

My friend Maggie read it last month and loved it as much as you did. Luckily I don't let that comparison hype get to me because I think those types of comparisons ALWAYS do the books a disservice. I look forward to reading it and watching the movie someday!

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Well, I haven't seen Game of Thrones yet. I don't have HBO. But this sounds like a great read. :) Thank you.

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