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Tuesday, July 8, 2014
The Queen of the Tearling
By Erika Johansen
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Published by: Harper

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.

Review: The Queen of the Tearling is a novel that includes so many of the things I love reading about: an interesting and active female character with a leadership role, a fantasy world, the importance of literacy, etc. that I couldn’t help but enjoy it. However, I had some issues  that prevented it from being a perfect reading experience.
            
              For me the highlight of the novel was the Queen of the Tearling herself, Kelsea Raleigh. Raised in isolation for her own safety, Kelsea was carefully educated by her guardians to be a strong leader for the good of her country. Her qualities include a strong sense of justice, an appreciation for the value of education, and a refusal to be cowed, even by the men who have been charged with her safety and whose respect she has to earn. Kelsea is flawed: due to her sheltered upbringing she is inexperienced and initially has little knowledge of the state of the kingdom she is meant to rule. She also has a temper, a trait that she eventually learns to turn into an asset. It’s wonderful reading the adventures of a woman in a leadership position who is not conventionally attractive, is smart, tough, and  cares about bettering the lives of her people. There is relatively little romance in this story and I didn’t miss it, as Kelsea, busy putting a stop to the slave trade and preparing for an invasion from the neighboring country, had more important things to deal with.
                        
             The book shifts POV from Kelsea occasionally. Some of the other characters’ perspectives, like Javel the guard and Father Tyler, present complex characters in difficult situations. Other characters, like the Regent, are a waste of time. This is an example of what I found to be the story’s flawed mix of complexity and preachy simplification. There’s a narrative thread involving the civilian cost of going to war and a leader’s responsibility to their people and page time is also given to berating an old woman for caring too much about her appearance.  There is emphasis on the importance of critical thinking and justice is sought for victims of domestic abuse. There are also multiple deus-ex-machinasThe results are a mixed bag of a story, but I do feel there is more good than bad. 
        
  Finally, I have to discuss what may very well be a pet peeve. I had some issues with the Tearling itself. The world building for this novel is sketchy at best. Apparently ships (sailing, not space) brought people escaping a cataclysmic event to a new land. These settlers came from what is ostensibly our modern age at the earliest, as some of the books they chose to bring with them include the Harry Potter series. These people are former citizens of the United States and the United Kingdom, yet they promptly create a society that is analogous to the early Middle Ages, complete with an absolute ruler with an inherited title, various nobles who control the land, and a powerful hierarchical church based on Christianity. There are few doctors in the Tearling as the medical ship was lost in the crossing, yet the neighboring country of Mortmesne has plenty doctors that can perform organ transplants. Also, gunpowder, something first created in the 11TH century, is considered an impossible technology. The arbitrariness of it all annoyed me. Magic somehow exists. The Red Queen has magical powers in abundance, some people have seer abilities, and Kelsea has inherited two problem-solving magical jewels. If the setting was a fantasy world I’d accept all this unquestioningly, but since the Tearling is  stated to be the result of the destruction of modern society I don’t think some elaboration on the whys and hows is too much to ask.  There should a reason things are framed this way, and fundamentals of world building should not be held back to save something for sequels. 

If you’re someone for whom characters and plot are the most important feature of a story, with world building a distant third, you may really love Queen of the Tearling, even more than I did. I do feel Kelsea is an excellent example of an interesting female character, and I am anxious to see where this story goes. My problem with the world building aside, I do recommend this novel.

3 Stars

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Release Day Review: The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling
By Erika Johansen
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Published by: Harper

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.

Review: The Queen of the Tearling is a novel that includes so many of the things I love reading about: an interesting and active female character with a leadership role, a fantasy world, the importance of literacy, etc. that I couldn’t help but enjoy it. However, I had some issues  that prevented it from being a perfect reading experience.
            
              For me the highlight of the novel was the Queen of the Tearling herself, Kelsea Raleigh. Raised in isolation for her own safety, Kelsea was carefully educated by her guardians to be a strong leader for the good of her country. Her qualities include a strong sense of justice, an appreciation for the value of education, and a refusal to be cowed, even by the men who have been charged with her safety and whose respect she has to earn. Kelsea is flawed: due to her sheltered upbringing she is inexperienced and initially has little knowledge of the state of the kingdom she is meant to rule. She also has a temper, a trait that she eventually learns to turn into an asset. It’s wonderful reading the adventures of a woman in a leadership position who is not conventionally attractive, is smart, tough, and  cares about bettering the lives of her people. There is relatively little romance in this story and I didn’t miss it, as Kelsea, busy putting a stop to the slave trade and preparing for an invasion from the neighboring country, had more important things to deal with.
                        
             The book shifts POV from Kelsea occasionally. Some of the other characters’ perspectives, like Javel the guard and Father Tyler, present complex characters in difficult situations. Other characters, like the Regent, are a waste of time. This is an example of what I found to be the story’s flawed mix of complexity and preachy simplification. There’s a narrative thread involving the civilian cost of going to war and a leader’s responsibility to their people and page time is also given to berating an old woman for caring too much about her appearance.  There is emphasis on the importance of critical thinking and justice is sought for victims of domestic abuse. There are also multiple deus-ex-machinasThe results are a mixed bag of a story, but I do feel there is more good than bad. 
        
  Finally, I have to discuss what may very well be a pet peeve. I had some issues with the Tearling itself. The world building for this novel is sketchy at best. Apparently ships (sailing, not space) brought people escaping a cataclysmic event to a new land. These settlers came from what is ostensibly our modern age at the earliest, as some of the books they chose to bring with them include the Harry Potter series. These people are former citizens of the United States and the United Kingdom, yet they promptly create a society that is analogous to the early Middle Ages, complete with an absolute ruler with an inherited title, various nobles who control the land, and a powerful hierarchical church based on Christianity. There are few doctors in the Tearling as the medical ship was lost in the crossing, yet the neighboring country of Mortmesne has plenty doctors that can perform organ transplants. Also, gunpowder, something first created in the 11TH century, is considered an impossible technology. The arbitrariness of it all annoyed me. Magic somehow exists. The Red Queen has magical powers in abundance, some people have seer abilities, and Kelsea has inherited two problem-solving magical jewels. If the setting was a fantasy world I’d accept all this unquestioningly, but since the Tearling is  stated to be the result of the destruction of modern society I don’t think some elaboration on the whys and hows is too much to ask.  There should a reason things are framed this way, and fundamentals of world building should not be held back to save something for sequels. 

If you’re someone for whom characters and plot are the most important feature of a story, with world building a distant third, you may really love Queen of the Tearling, even more than I did. I do feel Kelsea is an excellent example of an interesting female character, and I am anxious to see where this story goes. My problem with the world building aside, I do recommend this novel.

3 Stars

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