TITLE: The Queen of the Tearling
AUTHOR: Erika Johansen
PUBLISHER: Harper Collins
This novel has been on my to-read list for a very long time, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! As Johansen’s debut novel, and the first of a trilogy series, The Queen of the Tearling is an epic fantasy story based around heroine, Kelsea Raleigh, and her quest to reclaim her throne in the fictional land of the Tearling. At nearly 500 pages long, it isn’t a light read, however I think it is one worth investing the time into.
Although there is a huge list of characters to get your head around, Johansen succeeds in creating well-rounded, relatable and fully developed characters. Kelsea is perhaps an unlikely protagonist and queen since she is unextraordinary in many ways, but also somehow extraordinary at the same time. She is a plain-looking, naïve and stubborn teenager, but her bravery and strength in spite of her flaws make her an endearing and believable character. After having lived in isolation with her adopted parents for almost all her life, Kelsea is summoned on her 19th birthday by the Queen’s Guard to travel back to the capital and overthrow her Uncle as Regent. The plot centralises around Kelsea’s challenges as she struggles to assert herself as ruler. Her biggest threat of all is the Red Queen, ruler of the neighbouring country, Mortmesne, she is an infamous villain who uses dark magic to her advantage.
“Gain insight into multiple characters’ perspectives”
It must be said that the story gets off to a rather slow start, with heavy detail and description weighing the plot down. Despite this, I found it rather easy to read and once you delve deeper into the story, the pace becomes less of a problem. In my opinion, the narration is one of the best features of the novel. A third person omniscient narrator is used along with sections of free indirect discourse, therefore this allows the reader to gain insight into multiple characters’ perspectives, whilst also getting an overall picture of events. Even though sometimes the inclusion of magic in adventure novels can seem cheesy and unnecessary, in this case Johansen uses magic subtly and cleverly, giving the use of magic a specific purpose.
“It has been compared to many other fantasy sagas, including The Hunger Games”
Set in the future in a world wiped free of modern technology, Johansen moulds a fully immersive setting which will whisk readers away. I particularly liked the inclusion of the map in the first few pages of the book since this helped me to visualise the Tearling and its surroundings. Also, there are inserts at the beginning of each chapter from fictional historical books which describe the Tearling and its history. This addition makes the setting feel real and authentic, as well as giving context to the story. The Queen of the Tearling has been compared to many other fantasy sagas by critics, including The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and the well-loved A Game of Thrones series due to its action-packed, gripping and enthralling nature.
“Film rights of the book have already been sold”
The novel deals with various mature topics such as slavery, sexual violence and war which adds a whole new dimension to the story. There are many twists and turns, as Kelsea gradually discovers the unpleasant truth about her mother and the past of her kingdom. Like any good story about royalty, you can expect a lot of courtly conspiracy, assassination attempts, drama and death. With all this excitement, it is unsurprising that the film rights of the book have already been sold, with Emma Watson taking the lead role as Kelsea.
Overall, this was a highly enjoyable read and one that I would recommend to any fantasy fans. I look forward to reading the sequel after the climatic end of the first novel and I am keen to discover how the story and its characters progress.
9/10 – a heart-racing, addictive story which will capture your imagination.
Image courtesy of Sophie Hunt