Sunday, 22 June 2014

Book Review | The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.

"Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother - Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid - was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea's uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea's 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother's guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding.

And so begins her journey back to her kingdom's heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother's legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive." (synopsis from NetGalley)

I won't lie. I first heard about this book when I heard about Emma Watson and the movie rights. That's what sucked me in. After reading it, I definitely see some potential.

Kelsea Glynn has lived in a hidden away cottage, deep in a forest for all her life. Why? So she doesn't get killed. On her 19th birthday, everything changes. She now has to be a queen. Accompanied by her personal guard, she has to learn to survive in world she increasingly knows nothing about.

So, the things I liked about this book.

Firstly, the plot. It's an interesting concept. Kelsea is going from a place where she can absolutely trust the people she's surrounded by (even if they're only two people) to trusting few. She's going from being around nearly nobody, to a lot of people. It's interesting watching the transition.

The characters themselves, I thought, also really added to the story. I really liked the Queen's Guard, particularly Mace and Kelsea's personal bodyguard (whose name has escaped me). I'm also really intrigued by The Fetch, and am interested to see how he plays into all of this.

I had some issues with Kelsea. For the most part, she was an intelligent, savvy heroine. It was refreshing and I really liked her. But then, repeatedly, I'd find her have this obsession with beauty. I don't know whether the author did this on purpose. I don't know whether Johansen did it to show that Kelsea is a well-rounded character with flaws, or to show that perhaps she isn't as different to her mother as is suggested. Nevertheless, it was increasingly frustrating and mildly distracting.

An 'eh' thing: the pacing. While I personally had no problem with it, there is a focus on the introspective. This isn't entirely typical in a fantasy story. Not every person will like this. In fact, some may find that the story is slowed down by it.

Another 'eh' thing: There was a lot of perspectives, and perhaps not as much development. I understand and recognise that all the perspectives were necessary to see the full picture of the plot, but.

My biggest problem with this novel is the world building. It's been weeks since I finished it, and I'm still so confused. It's marketed as a 'Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones,' which in itself is an odd combination. The novel doesn't pull that off.

Johansen used titles like 'New London,' which made me think it was a sort of steampunk world. If not that, then it was based in a new world, or an alternate universe. But then, there were none of the typical technologies. Everything hinted at a medieval setting. But then they'd use specific terms for things like arthritis - in a classic medieval setting, they wouldn't have a name for it, they'd simply call it an 'aching of the bones.' This made me think that it was set in the future.

Nothing was ever fully explained. Because of this, I couldn't place myself in a specific world. This led me to being confounded again and again. It was actually a little distressing.

Overall, there's definitely potential in this series. I just wish we'd seen more of it in the first book.

Rating: ** (2 Stars)
Publisher: Transworld Publishers
Publication Date: July 17th 2014

Want to buy this book? You can get it here:
Thank you to NetGalley and Transworld Publishers for providing me with an e-ARC

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