“Tear Queen, you’ll either be dead within a week or you’ll be the most fearsome ruler this kingdom has ever known. I see no middle ground.”
– The Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen.
Now this is a series I’ve been very intrigued about for the longest time. On one hand, I’ve heard mixed things about it, and have most often read that it’s a slow moving book with not much going on from cover to cover. On the other hand, this book is also marketed as being similar to Game of Thrones crossed with The Hunger Games. First, let me tell you it is neither of those. It is especially not similar to Game of Thrones, nor one of those dark or epic fantasy series that come to mind when you think of that type of high fantasy. In fact, I’m not certain I can even call it a straight high fantasy at all!
If anything, The Queen of the Tearling is much closer to the Red Queen series in genre. We have hints of a post-apocalyptic world set in our future, with a smattering of magic that brings the fantasy feelings. Throw in an adopted monarchy system – queens, knights, assassins oh my! – and a world that lacks markers of modernity, such as machines and guns and skyscraper-filled cities, and we have a post-apocalyptic passing as a high fantasy!
I honestly couldn’t put this book down. I was so caught up with the story and the characters. It was so different from the fantasies I’ve been reading in so many ways, and it’s mostly because of the characters. More specifically, the main character, Kelsea, who is down to earth, intelligent, and so relatable in how she thinks!
Seriously, Kelsea is an enigma of a different kind. She’s not incredibly beautiful and knows it, but strives for confidence of self all the same, which I so love about her. She’s not afraid of thinking and calculating, and really her thoughts in general are my favourite parts about her because they are everything I would be thinking too. Some of those thoughts are bad, mean, spontaneously rude, but also observant and kind. There’s something so realistic about a protagonist who can backtrack her own rude thoughts, reassess her judgements, and acknowledge that even in her own mind she is only human.
Most of you know I’m a huge sucker for assassins and action and romance, so now you’re all probably wondering how action-packed this book is. The answer is – it’s not really. This book isn’t all flying weapons, and there isn’t even any heated romance. Instead, there’s a slow build of intrigue and politics, which no doubt might be a little boring for some. But I absolutely loved that I didn’t quite know where this story was going as we walked through the story with Kelsea, who also didn’t know what her own story was going to entail. Would there be a fight for the throne? Would there be war? Assassinations? Is the kingdom flourishing? Is it in poverty? Who are the major players and do they have an angle or a stake in the political struggle?
Don’t get me wrong, there is action and magic and moments of power and satisfaction! But this book focused more so on the fragile, tentative building of loyalty and friendship amongst uncertain circumstances and unseen players. In other words, the characters were the focus. There were so many personalities in this book, all with different roles, and all of whom had to learn more about one another and trust one another. I enjoyed the banter, and the relationships, and going through even the small moments of Kelsea’s journey.
And I am so interested to see how the magical aspect of this world will develop. Along with finally discovering just who the heck the Fetch really is! I know many people have said that this is a slow book, but I think it’s paced perfectly. There’s a real earthy sense of getting to know the world and the characters.
I am super excited for the next book!