by Erika Johansen (2014) ♥♥♥♥
“Stories moved Kelsea most, stories of things that never were, stories that transported her beyond the changeless world of the cottage.” – Erika Johansen, Queen of the Tearling
This book was so different from anything I’ve ever read before and not just the story, but the overall structure of the book varied from the norm too.
A beautiful map helps us visualise the world of the Tearling and straight away, we are thrown into the story of Kelsea, living in a small cottage with two parent-like figures, Carlin and Barty, and never having had any interaction with people outside of these two. Kelsea is brought up under the teachings of these two characters in preparation for her reign on the Tearling throne, a task she has known about and spent nineteen years readying herself for.
The story soon gets going when the Queen’s guard comes for Kelsea, to deliver her safely to the Keep and allow the crowning of the new Queen. It is established early on that Kelsea’s mother died many years ago, leaving Kelsea’s uncle to assume leadership for the Tearling realm.
While it takes a good chunk of time for Kelsea to arrive at the Keep, having encountered a few setbacks along the way, she soon appears before the people of the Tearling and starts making changes to her poor and debauched land.
The story then continues with the appearance of new characters, including the Red Queen and the knowledge of a treaty between the two lands becomes apparent, which is paramount to the events that unfold as Kelsea assumes the throne.
I have told you all I can without revealing anything spoilery, so now here comes the spoilers.
I presumed the Tearling was a place away from our world, however subtle references throughout the book disproved my theory.
“They had found the seven volumes of Rowling with no help at all, but there was no squabbling.” – Erika Johansen, Queen of the Tearling
When I read this, I was slightly taken about for a moment because this suggests that the book takes place far into the future, into a world where there’s no technology, a repeat of inequality and slavery (will humans ever learn?) and a place where people have reverted back to the basics of living. This is so different from books I have read; their worlds are normally just somewhere else completely.
One thing that is mentioned over and over again is this ‘Crossing’ which never gets fully explained until the end of the book where we finally learn that basically, the world has gone awful again and so humans have had to ‘cross’ over to this new place and set up civilisation there (if I have read this whole book and still got this confused then please do correct me). And of course after this, humans have naturally regressed back to a time when slavery and raping was seen as the norm. Sigh.
*following meme contains swearing (but reiterates my point)*
But aside from the constant mention of rape, slavery, inequality and abuse, I did really enjoy the setting of the story in a period where there is no technology and everything is back to basics, but set in the future.
One part of the book that I actually audibly gasped in shock at (I don’t usually physically react to books) was when the Red Queen (love that book) basically had finished, let’s say, with a slave she ordered to her room that night (at least the book included a female using a male and not just the other way round) and the man started snoring as he slept. Doesn’t sound that bad you think? Well this Queen was contemplating and didn’t like the sound of someone snoring, and as her trail of thought continued, we see her grow more and more irritated by this man snoring until suddenly, she orders guards to take him away AND REMOVE HIS TONGUE AND CUT HIS VOCAL CHORDS.
I feel this picture accurately portrays my reaction to this particular scene.
SHE TOOK AWAY HIS VOICE JUST BECAUSE HE HAPPENED TO SNORE. Seriously, this Queen is vile and I can only imagine what other evil things she will get up to in the next book.
Whilst we’re on the subject of characters, I feel like I should mention a few more. Kelsea is a really good strong female protagonist and I think we see the right amount of strong will and vulnerability from her as a nineteen year old woman. One thing this book didn’t include (which was a nice change) was that there were no romantic relationships involved, but given the nature of the state of humanity, I don’t think we’ll really see any romance in the next books either. Kelsea seems to be attracted to the Fetch at the moment, a mysterious character whom I cannot wait to see more of in further books.
We only get to see a bit of Carlin and Barty at the beginning of the book – her foster parents – who appear to be very different from one another. Barty is a sort of loving father whereas Carlin is a let’s-get-down-to-business, no fuss and fairly strict role model, necessary for preparing Kelsea for her future role as Queen.
Another character who only appeared for a short time in the book was Kelsea’s uncle, Thomas or the Reagent. How could anyone feel sympathy for this character? Everything I read about him just further fuelled my intense dislike for him – he commanded some seriously bad guards to search for Kelsea to prevent her becoming Queen, he didn’t care for anyone in the Tearling, and he kept loads of women for his own personal pleasure. One bit that stuck with me is that when Kelsea ordered him out of the Keep and all of ‘his’ women then left, he reminded them that he never hit them – did he seriously just argue that he wasn’t in the wrong? I’m glad he died.
The Mace is an intriguing character as well, we don’t learn much about him and his past except that he took Kelsea away from the Keep to place her into hiding. I feel like he has some serious dark secrets hidden away so let’s just see what happens in the next book!
Overall, the story was so cleverly constructed and even though I felt it a bit flat at times and not really progressing, it still kept my interest enough to continue and the action really increased towards the end so I was glad I kept with it. We learn that Kelsea has some sort of ‘seeing’ power and her two jewels can be used as a source of magic, just mentioned little and often so we know this will feature in the rest of the series.
I forgot to mention that one cool feature of this book is that the chapters are unique – it isn’t the standard seven pageish chapter, labelled in numbers. The book is split into sections which are then subdivided into more chapter-like parts. Also at the beginning of the chapter there is a small snippet of an article, poem or history book, suggesting that the entire novel is more like a look into the past because these snippets at the start are looking back and reflecting on the events of the reign of the Queen of the Tearling. I love this, it creates a real sense of history like these events actually happened, but it also worries me because I am pretty sure that the series will end with the death of Kelsea’s reign.
The next book in the series is called the Invasion of the Tearling and I will definitely be purchasing this to further discover the story of Kelsea.
“history was everything, for it was in man’s nature to make the same mistakes over and over.” – Erika Johansen, Queen of the Tearling
Have a beautiful day ♥