Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title:  The Queen of the Tearling
Author:  Erika Johansen
Series:  The Queen of the Tearling #1
Publisher:  Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins
Publication Date:  July 8, 2014
Pages:  434
Format/Source:  ARC/From Publisher, via BEA
Age Group/Genre:  Young Adult/Fantasy, Science Fiction

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.

The Queen of the Tearling introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)

Took Me a While…

For whatever reason, high fantasy books take me FOREVER to read.  I was reading The Queen of the Tearling for a week and realized I was still on page 30.  Of course, I hadn’t read every day of that week, but still.  I was enjoying it, so I didn’t want to DNF, but I thought maybe I’d set it aside and try it again later.  I ended up deciding against it, and although it took me 16 days to finish, I’m glad I finally did finish The Queen of the Tearling.

Mixed Reviews…

I’ve heard that there are TONS of mixed reviews of The Queen of the Tearling. Some love it, some hate it, some are kind of in between.  I really enjoyed it, although I don’t think I quite loved it.  But I did really like the fact that this book reads as a Fantasy book, while the backstory of this world is more Sci-Fi, with it being set in a time after a major apocalypse.  And that is kind of a spoiler (sorry, I hate spoilers) since the world’s backstory wasn’t really explained until later in the book, but it’s something I wish was explained earlier, and I wish it had been explained in more depth. I’m still kind of confused with that backstory, but I think it was a cool idea and I wish I wasn’t as confused.  Of course, I read the ARC and so maybe more will be explained in the finalized copy, or maybe more will be revealed in further books.

Another thing I really wasn’t happy about is that there are a few mysteries that are brought up repeatedly throughout this story, and we don’t find out the answers at the end!  I would have liked at least one of them to be explained, so we would have had a bit of closure.  I understand that these things will probably be revealed in the later books, but I just felt like they were such major parts of THIS book that they should have been resolved in this one.

And Kelsea seems to focus too much on appearances.  She judges people on their looks left and right, even going so far as to say “she saw now that there was something far worse than being ugly: being ugly and thinking you were beautiful.”  She thinks this about a noblewoman, focusing on the fact that this woman is ugly but thinks she’s beautiful, even though this woman has SO many more horrible aspects about her.  Really, Kelsea?  You’re going to focus on the fact that she’s ugly rather than the fact that she’s overall a horrible, wretched person?

Still an Enjoyable Read…

But overall, I really did like The Queen of the Tearling.  I liked the little snippets that were at the beginning of each chapter, because they were often excerpts of books that were supposedly written much later on–histories that told this tale that we were reading.  And I liked a lot of the characters, like Lazarus and Andalie and The Fetch.  These characters are definitely multi-faceted, with a lot of mystery behind each of them.  

I really did like the storyline, with Kelsea growing into her role as queen, and all the little mysteries that this world held.  But I do wish that some of those mysteries had been cleared up in this first book.  And Erika Johansen gets some of my Bonus Points for a Harry Potter reference (50,000 points) and a couple of references to The Hobbit (25,000 points) and The Lord of the Rings (25,000 points).

My rating for The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen:

Actually more like 3.75 stars, just shy of 4.  I’ll be interested to see where the rest of this story goes, and I hope to find out the answers to some of my questions in the next book!

Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ HarperCollins
You may also enjoy:  For Darkness Shows the Stars │ Throne of Glass

Disclaimer:  I received this ARC from the publisher, via Book Expo America, in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review.


  1. Brandi Kosiner

    July 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Glad you enjoyed even if not fully in love. I haven't heard much about this one, but the high fantasies usually aren't for me.

  2. Micheline D

    July 10, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    You're right, I have been seeing reviews for this one that run the gamut from intense love, to middling all the way to dislike. Honestly it's just making me more curious to see what I'll end up thinking of this one when I finally do read it :D I'm glad you enjoyed this one for the most part but I agree with you that the MC being so stuck on looks is kind of a bummer. I love me some fantasy though so I'll definitely still be checking it out! Thanks for the wonderful review ^^ the HP & LotR references sound REALLY cool :D

    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews

  3. LHughes

    July 18, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I am immensely curious about this book with all the hype it's getting and the whole Emma Watson thing. I'll definitely be reading it, but I suspect I'll feel similar to you… I have trouble with the pacing of high fantasy. And I don't like when there are secrets/mysteries being kept from the reader. It's super interesting what you said about the main character's focus on appearances because I read a whole interview with the author who seemed adamant that books need more ugly protagonists? That there's too many beautiful female protagonists.

    So I appreciate your review, but you might have just made me EVEN MORE curious!

    Lauren @ Wordy Hughes

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