The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen
Rating: 5 stars
My husband set himself a challenge for my Christmas this year, to buy me a book that I hadn't read or owned and that I would love and enjoy. This was easier said than done, I read so extensively that he fully admitted he truly didn't know a comprehensive list of those I'd read over the years and those I already owned so he went and did some online research at books that were regarded highly and crossed his fingers and hoped for the best.
Whilst he was doing his research I was watching Reagan from Peruse Project talking about her favourite fantasy series' of all time and was intrigued by her love for the Tearling trilogy and so I'd already decided to add them to my TBR list but you can imagine my joy when on Christmas morning I opened my gift to find my husband had bought me The Queen of the Tearling, the first in Erika Johansens's Tearling trilogy. It was as if he'd read my mind. Huge brownie points for picking both one I'd not already read or owned and that I had already decided I couldn't wait to read.
And I loved it! This book was my favourite book I've read so far this year. The story of Kelsea, a girl who has been raised by foster parents her whole life out in the countryside till one day a group of Queen's guards arrives to take her back to New London, the Tearling capital. Kelsea is no ordinary girl, she is the heir to the Tearling throne and she has now come of age and is able to claim her birthright. The only problem is that she has many enemies who would rather she didn't survive long enough to sit upon the throne and she knows little of the world she will soon rule. Can she survive and become the ruler that the country needs?
The first thing that I loved about this book was the characters. Johansen writes such colourful and rich characters in this novel. The personalities she creates for them she accompanies with wonderful backstories that have led them to this point in their lives and for those whom she wishes to remain more remove she gives us glimpses of their mystery and allows us to pray she will at some point in the trilogy explore these so we can gain the answers we seek. There are so many amazing people I fell in love with in the story, The Mace was a wonderfully strong and compassionate friend to Kelsea and I loved the mysterious Fetch who always seemed to be there when she needed him. Pen, her guard and friend and even the villains of the piece like The Regent and Arlen Thorne. Each of them seemed larger than life and you want to read more about them, in a 440-page book it wasn't enough. I cannot wait to rejoin them in book 2 of this series.
The second highlight of this book was the setting. The Tearling world is clearly one that is fairly primitive, they have mastered simple skills such as building, woodwork and farming but it has a fairly old world feel yet we are given glimpses of a time before this book called The Crossing where travellers from America and the 'old world' fled their homes and travelled by sea to this new world where Tearling resides. This 'old world' is clearly our world because they talk about e-books and computers and drug problems and in the Queen's library they talk of popular fiction of today such as the 7 volumes of Rowling and The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. This gave it such a fascinating feel that although this world is clearly a future one it is one where people have returned to a time when technology and progress have been reversed and we have taken a step back some several hundred years.
Finally, the politics of this world was so engaging. The deep divide between the rich and poor of the Tearling, the way the Regent has lived in wealth and fed the wealth of the nobles whilst the poor struggle to survive is something we often in books but accompanied by the intrigue of the Shipments and the relationship with it's stronger neighbour Mortmense and it's looming ruler The Red Queen was such a great setting for this novel. Kelsea's struggle to try and right these wrongs, whilst battling against those who have no desire for things to change was what kept my pages turning again and again. The fact that we still have much to learn in the coming books about how we arrived at this situation and why The Red Queen needed Tearling slaves so badly and how Kelsea will manage to fix the political inequalities means that Johansen has left us plenty to wonder about and bring us back.
I find it no surprise that this book has had film rights purchased for it by the team responsible for Harry Potter, I am only disappointed that nothing has been done with them thus far. I read this book at a really busy time for my family where I could only find ocassional points to pick it up but I was longing to read it all the time. I was getting frustrated when I knew I couldn't sit down and progress with it. If I'd been under normal weekly task loads I'd have read this much quicker. I absolutely will be reading the two companion novels soon as this was a wonderful fantasy novel set in a wonderful world with some of the best characters I've read about in some time.