Book Review: The Fate of the Tearling

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

From the publisher:
The thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Tearling trilogy.

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.

To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.

Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.

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As with many books in series, I'll keep this review brief in order to avoid spoilers for those who have yet to read the previous books. This final installment did not disappoint. The previous book was a huge work to live up to, and this one wasn't quite as excellent, but I'm not surprised by that.

Johansen's writing never deviates from quality and gorgeous diction. Her ideas are consistently impressive and unexpected, and she makes authorial decisions that I may not have made myself, but that work well with the world and series she has created.

By this final Tearling novel, the characters are all incredibly well developed, and I truly enjoyed them all. Even in an extremely well-written book, a cast of unlikable characters is much more of a turnoff for me than many other things. The characters in these books feel so real and conflicted, and I loved following all of their development and unique stories with plenty of directions I didn't see coming.

This book continues with the trend of excellent action scenes and complex strategizing that I loved in the previous two books. The ending may not be for everyone, but that doesn't make it any less worth picking up this series. A wonderful conclusion to an incredible series. I look forward to seeing what Johansen writes next.

Book links for Goodreads, Amazon, HarperCollins.

Thank you to HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for sponsoring this tour (and the tours for the rest of the trilogy!). Check out the rest of the tour stops here

Book Review: Invasion of the Tearling

Monday, December 19, 2016

Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

In this riveting sequel to the national bestseller The Queen of the Tearling, the evil kingdom of Mortmesne invades the Tearling, with dire consequences for Kelsea and her realm.

With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

In this dazzling sequel, Erika Johansen brings back favorite characters, including the Mace and the Red Queen, and introduces unforgettable new players, adding exciting layers to her multidimensional tale of magic, mystery, and a fierce young heroine.

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A thrilling, gripping sequel to an excellent debut. Johansen's characters are so full-bodied and emotionally wrought. This is a captivating world, and the story and setting is much more established in this second installment. It also pulls in the addition of a mysterious woman, Lily, in a past generation, which added a great layer to the novel, as well as additional intrigue and impact.

These books aren't always fast-paced. Don't pick these up expecting a YA book you can fly through in a couple hours. They're relatively long books with small fonts and lots of characters and dimensions. This is definitely more of an adult fantasy/adventure story. It's got some graphic violence, language and zesty scenes too. Partly because of all of that and for many other reasons as well, it's a really incredible, developed story that totally captivated me. This is good stuff.

Although I love the adventure, political intrigue, magic, and so on, of these books, the thing I was most impressed with in this second installment is the way it deals with difficult topics. In the span of 500 pages, this stunning novel includes elements of self-harm, depression, domestic abuse, child abuse, body positivity and self-esteem, sexual violence, guilt, loss, and more, all in the most impressive and mature ways. Johansen doesn't hold back on depicting these difficult and too-common problems, but she does so in a thoroughly realistic, honest and respectful way. Nothing feels forced here. The problems of the characters are real and painful, but they are given the space to be fully depicted and are allotted the proper respect. I was incredibly impressed.

I highly recommend this amazing series to fans of fantasy, political intrigue, and terrifying/wonderful heroines. Queen Kelsea continues to kick ass 24/7. She's so legit, but also damaged and imperfect. I love that. Please pick up this series. 

Thank you to HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for sponsoring this tour (and the tours for the rest of the trilogy!). Check out the rest of the tour stops here

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

From the publisher: A #1 Indie Next Pick and LibraryReads Selection

Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend . . . if she can survive.

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This book is incredibly impressive. It's not only the first in a very well-regarded fantasy trilogy, but also the debut novel by this author. All in all, it was a beautifully written, complex, adventurous book and I can't wait to continue on with the series. Though the world-building in the beginning of this novel did get get a bit dense and underwhelming, the world that is created here is fascinating and terrifying, and certainly begging for sequels. 

I was and am a bit confused yet about exactly when this book is set.  In most accounts it seems to be a fictional, sometimes magical world ruled by monarchies and brutal immortal leaders and in most ways completely separate from how I view the "real-world" today. However, there were numerous moments indicating that this is in fact a future version of our current society. These were things like the city of "New London" and how it came to be, as well as some other references to current modern life (like referring to books by Rowling!). These implications and sources of confusion both intrigued and perplexed me. 

After about 100 pages of this book, the pace really begins to pick up as new characters are introduced or become more important to the narrative. Kelsea's harrowing journey to her new city is only the beginning of the politically-charged, violent and dramatic course of the novel. 

Queen Kelsea is truly a kickass heroine and I can't wait to see how she develops even further as a character in the following books. She's strong, decisive, intelligent and totally unprepared, which makes for an incredibly complicated persona. I also really enjoyed the various supporting characters, as well as some of the chapters that quite sporadically take a widely different viewpoint--a church official, Gate Guard, and disgraced ruler, for example.

All in all, highly recommended, and I'm excited to start the sequel right away. 

Book links for HarperCollins, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads

Thank you to HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for sponsoring this tour (and the tours for the rest of the trilogy!). Check out the rest of the tour stops here