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.
The Queen of the Tearling is the first volume in an epic fantasy series by Erika Johansen. It follows the life of Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, born a royal in the kingdom of Tear but ferreted away for most of the first nineteen years of her life for safety, not unlike the legendary "Sleeping Beauty", who was raised in secret for sixteen years. As she grows, there are forces out to obliterate her, most notably her uncle Thomas, the Raleigh Regent who wants to retain his power on her throne, previously occupied by her deceased mother Elyssa. Kelsea manages to survive until her coming of age at nineteen, raised in seclusion by the caring Barty and Carlin Glynn, who gave her an academic education as well as one of survival. Since an infant she has worn a magical pendant, a blue sapphire with otherworldly properties. When the Queen's Guard comes to fetch her, she takes the throne, but not without struggle. She grows from a naive girl in the woods to a powerful royal not seen in decades, facing down an even greater threat in the Red Queen, who has oppressed the Tearling from her position in Mortmesne for many years.
The Queen of the Tearling is a captivating novel, filled with adventure, magic, and enduring social issues. Religion and politics are infused throughout, set in a future world beyond the one we know now. I found it interesting that this story was not set in a completely fantastical realm, but on our Earth, just set far in the future. Few modern conveniences have survived the historic “Crossing", from generations before in their time. Books are a rarity, there are no electronics, and medical knowledge has receded into a pre-modern state. Christianity still has a presence, and this provides an interesting perspective, although sometimes a troubling one. We see a pseudo-Christian church represented, warped by greed, power and corruption. It is a shadow of the Body that Christ intends, with its toleration of human trafficking and an almost theocratic influence on government. This provides interesting conflict within the narrative, but I was disappointed to see the Church once more portrayed in a negative light within literature.
That being said, Johansen’s writing is captivating, and it is no surprise to know that the novel garnered so much pre-publication buzz that the story has already been optioned for the screen. Although others have been considered for the role, I could see Hailee Steinfeld as the lead, with Gerard Butler as the strong and powerful Lazarus. Carlin could be played by Helen Mirren, with Wallace Shawn as Barty.
Along with thematic elements as seen in fairy tales like the ones by the Brothers Grimm, I also noticed hints of King Arthur, Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games. This is not to say that it's a derivative tale; it simply feels like a classic narrative that has been crafted in a similar fashion to these epic stories. The human drama, magic and cast of characters kept me enthralled through every chapter. Erika Johansen has begun quite the series, and I look forward to the upcoming titles.
Notes to conservative readers and/or parents: The content in this novel is not for small children. While not overwhelmingly prevalent, there is enough adult material to earn a soft R rating. I'm sure the content will be toned down in order to achieve a PG-13 rating when it comes to theaters, but this book is not as tame as the fantastical likes of Harry Potter or the Brothers Grimm, which in their own right do indeed have interesting content. And as mentioned, the views of the Christian church are not exactly stellar. Despite those caveats, I enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling very much and eagerly anticipate to the cinematic version and the sequels, The Invasion of the Tearling and The Fate of the Tearling.
Giveaway: The Queen of the Tearling
(US Entrants Only)
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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