I’m combining my review for the first 2 books in Erika Johansen’s Queen of the Tearling series mostly because I can’t distinguish what happened in each one anymore (spoilers for both follow).
Queen of the Tearling (434 pages)
Basic plot follows Kelsea Raleigh, who has just turned 19, which obv means she is old enough to be in charge of a country. She will be Queen of (you guessed it) the Tearling, one of several kingdoms founded after the Crossing. Btw, the Crossing (don’t worry—you’ll hear about it A LOT) was William Tear’s big plan to form a utopian society after the present world order collapsed. Not too much of a stretch, I suppose.
Major complications to the coronation = everyone wants to kill Kelsea. List of enemies includes: her uncle, who wants the throne for himself; the Fetch, a thief/anarchist who happens to be incredibly good-looking; and the seemingly immortal Red Queen, ruler of neighboring Mortmesne.
Luckily, Kelsea has an extremely loyal and competent Queen’s Guard, led by Lazarus, aka the Mace. What is incredibly irritating is that Lazarus is set up as a sort of father figure to Kelsea even though he’s really the only character I want her to hook up with. Her “real” love interest is the Fetch, who is annoyingly self-righteous and quite possibly a sociopath.
Kelsea is living with her mother’s legacy, which is pretty awful. After losing a war with Mortmesne, Kelsea’s mother saved the Tearling by regularly sending a shipment of slaves (made up of citizens of the Tearling) to the Red Queen. Kelsea honorably does away with this policy, breaking all hell loose.
I read the first book really quickly—characters were interesting, plot was fast-paced, Red Queen was suitably terrifying, and there were several mysteries that kept me guessing. …Which leads me to book 2…
Invasion of the Tearling (514 pages)
Kelsea starts becoming such a badass in book 1, which is part of what makes the second book so frustrating. Not only does it become increasingly clear she is going to make a horrible bargain with the devil (like I think he honestly is a demon), but she also becomes ridiculously obsessed with the Fetch and decides to hook up with someone she isn’t particularly into because he rejects her. FOR LIKE THE 30TH TIME. Someone get this girl a copy of He’s Just Not That Into You. The Fetch is even more of a dickbag in book 2, and not in an “I know it’s wrong, but I like it anyway” type of situation.
Additionally, the plot alternates between Kelsea’s storyline and the introduction of a previously unmentioned pre-Crossing character, Lily. It’s hard not to feel bad for Lily, who is constantly victimized by a dystopian, Handmaid’s Tale-type society where women have almost no rights. However, it’s also really hard to actually like Lily, who remains completely oblivious to the suffering of those around her for a fucking long time.
This book also reminds you that the, ahem, hero who led everyone over in the Crossing thought it was a good strategy to put EVERY doctor and EVERY piece of medical equipment on one fucking ship…that SANK. Brilliant plan, dude.
Also there’s the big reveal of a time travel thing that doesn’t make a ton of sense.
The Rating: 3/5 Pink Panther Heads
I did at least finish both books, and I will more than likely pick up the last one because I really want to know what happens (erm, mostly to the Mace).
However, I couldn’t help feeling the specifics of the Crossing hadn’t been hammered out before the series was written, making for a rather disjointed story in book 2 with some frankly desperate plot twists.