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The Queen of the Tearling

Review

The Queen of the Tearling

Kelsea Raleigh Glynn is a serious girl who loves reading books and learning. She's been raised by a devoted foster family following the death of her mother, and now, as she turns 19 years of age, she sets out on the perilous quest to claim her birthright as the Queen of the Tearling.

Aiding her in her adventure is a dedicated guardian named Lazarus, along with others of the Queen's Guard. And she will need them. Assassins have been biding their time, awaiting her re-emergence, and the malevolent Red Queen of Mortmesne will stop at nothing to prevent Kelsea from claiming the throne.

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is 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 sure to hold the attention of the most jaded reader of fantasy. It does have a few pacing issues, but on the whole, the story remains entertaining enough to make them a minimal obstacle. 

"A heady mixture of adventure, romance, magic and mystery, this debut novel from Erika Johansen is a captivating work sure to hold the attention of the most jaded reader of fantasy."

Kelsea is a credible lead. She is young and not at all comfortable with the idea of ruling. She has no idea how to go about being a Queen and knows nothing of the Tearling. Like any child on the verge of full-fledged adulthood, she is uncertain of herself, the world, and her place in it. Yet, even though she has these doubts, Johansen has made sure not to play her as a defenseless damsel. There is strength in Kelsea, and she is only going to grow in subsequent novels.

The world of the Tearling is crafted to resemble our own history, particularly a Middle Ages Europe, in setting and tone. What readers learn as they read THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is that it is not a past but rather a future world. Elements of our past are referenced, but they are not always as we remember them. Things have changed. Slavery and human trafficking are back in fashion. Technology is banned. It is one of the endearing things about the worldcraft of the novel.

Some have already begun comparing this book to A Game of Thrones. That is a mistake. While thrones, royals and political intrigue are present in both, there is no real comparison. George R. R. Martin's series is far denser and heavier than what Johansen has crafted. This is not a knock on THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING. What Johansen has done is craft a novel with an easy style that is tremendously fun and engaging, luring readers on its own merits and strengths.

As THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING winds to a close, readers will be left with the questions that they hope to find answers to in the follow-up installment: What is the story with the Red Queen? What exactly is the time and place, and what has happened in the past? And just who is Kelsea's father? With any luck, it won't take six years to find out some of those answers.

Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on July 15, 2014

The Queen of the Tearling
by Erika Johansen