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.
Because I enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling so thoroughly, I felt that author Erika Johansen had quite a task in front of her in the follow-up to her exciting first novel in this series. When dealing with sequels, it’s often the case that a second act tends to pale in comparison to the first. Not so with The Invasion of the Tearling. It picks up not long after the conclusion of the first tale, as Queen Kelsea is dealing with the repercussions of her actions in the days surrounding her crowning. She faces the prospect of the massive Mort army descending upon her modest kingdom. If history is any indication, she is in for massive slaughter on an epic scale. How is she to thwart such a formidable enemy?
While The Invasion of the Tearling does deal with the political ramifications of these events, there is so much more going on. Magic weaves in and out of the story, changing Kelsea physically and bringing her even more confidence as a leader. She continues to grow in strength, all the while trying to understand the forces that are working in her and through her. A most notable event in her life is the introduction of a new character, Lily.
When Lily first came on the scene, I temporarily thought I’d been transported into another novel. She was residing in a not-so-distant-future America, dealing with very non-magical, domestic issues. Her story is at times gut-wrenching, and not for the faint of heart. She endures graphic spousal abuse, so I once again note to my conservative readers that while an enjoyable series, this one is not for children. Should it be put on film, The Invasion of the Tearling could easily garner an “R” rating.
This is not to discourage my adult audience, however. If you can look past some measure of violence and blue language, there is a riveting story here. Lily’s connection to Kelsea is remarkable, and I highly enjoyed the alternating moments between their two worlds. They both are dealing with seemingly insurmountable odds, and the courage they exhibit is extraordinary. That comes with a price, however, and sometimes it’s brutal.
Author Erika Johansen once again had quite a few thoughts in regard to social issues—women’s rights, privacy laws, the nature of technology and other topics. The Church still plays a vital role in the tale, and I wish that Kelsea’s society had a better model for what it means to be the Body of Christ. However, there is a character who seems to defy much of that church’s hypocrisy and shows the love of Christ to others. I enjoyed him very much.
The Invasion of the Tearling comes to an end at a logical stopping point, but it’s clearly not the true conclusion of the story. There’s a bit of a cliffhanger as to the fate of Queen Kelsea and her kingdom, and I am eager to get on to the next entry in this series, The Fate of the Tearling. If it’s anything like its predecessors, I should be in for a great ride!
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About Erika Johansen
Erika Johansen grew up and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She went to Swarthmore College, earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and eventually became an attorney, but she never stopped writing.
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