Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Narrator(s): Katherine Kellgren
Series: The Queen of the Tearling, book #1
Length: 14 hrs 30 mins
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperAudio
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source: from publisher via Edelweiss, audio borrowed from library
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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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.

I requested a review copy of this novel when the hype was just fueling up. Then I started seeing some very middling reviews roll in, and I decided to put it on the back burner until someone could convince me that it was worth my time. But then I kind of forgot about and it released to little fanfare. So what do I normally do in situations like this? Go the audiobook route.

And it absolutely paid off for me. I'm not sure if it's because one of my favorite narrators is reading the book or the fact that it was an audiobook at all, but I freaking loved this story. It was a bit convoluted at times, what with the story set in the distant future but with a very historical fantasy vibe, but I think it all came together admirably in the end. After all, I don't think it's that preposterous to think that we might revert back to our medieval ways should things not fare so well for us in the future. I mean, you've seen the mobs and the looting after a natural disaster hits, right?

The people of the Tearling are not total barbarians, though. I think Queen Kelsea is proof of that. She actually reminded me of Elisa from Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns series: not meek, not gorgeous, and definitely not confident, but someone with the power to change the world with the right tools and companions. And even before Kelsea has been crowned, she's affected major changes in her kingdom, changes that most certainly will bring war to their door. But she has set herself to the task of becoming a far better queen than her mother ever was, and I think with the upbringing she had and the companions she now keeps, she can certainly rise to the challenge.

Though I compare the main character to one in a favorite YA fantasy series of mine, this novel is unabashedly adult in nature. There is swearing. The sexual situations are numerous, though not terribly graphic. And there are all manner of vulgar references and circumstances. It didn't bother me in the slightest, but considering Emma Watson is set to play the lead role in the movie adaptation, I wanted to convey that this story is not written for her usual audience. That said, I believe Emma will bring the fiery temper yet quiet reserve of Queen Kelsea to life beautifully on the big screen.

There isn't a lot of romance to be had in this book, not that I minded that either. Kelsea is considered very plain, and at this point in her story, she is more likely to be used as a pawn than an object of someone's affection. There are hints at a potential romance in the future for young Kelsea, but it's also not obvious at this point if her feelings are completely one-sided or not. She has proven herself a very formidable queen, though, and to some, power is more attractive than actual beauty, so we shall see where that aspect takes us.

I found this story to be absolutely captivating. One of those where I found myself inventing chores so that I could listen longer. Its dark and atmospheric setting took hold of me and the characters just would not let me forget them, especially with the fabulous Katherine Kellgren narrating it all for me. I know what other reviewers are saying, but I think this book is just one of those that you have to try for yourself.

GIF it to me straight:
Turned out sooo much better than I was expecting.

About the author:

Erika Johansen was educated at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania before attending the celebrated Iowa Writers Workshop, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. She later became an attorney. The Queen Of The Tearling – the first book in a trilogy – is her debut. Erika lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.

Find Erika:



  1. I think this is the first time we've not liked the same book! I read the e-arc so I wonder how much that changed my opinion of the story. I'm happy you ended up loving it! I believe you are in the majority. I've seen most people love or hate this one.

  2. After seeing so many negative reviews of this, it's nice to see you enjoyed it :) Adding to TBR 'cause you have me convinced!

  3. OH THANK GOODNESS! I'm so glad to have read your review. I was torn between which books I wanted to read/listen to next and this one just happened to be on that list. You have totally convinced to me to get the audio and read along. Super excited about it now!!
    Thank you for sharing!!!
    BIG hugs xoxo
    Michelle @ Book Hangovers Blabs Books

  4. Great review. I reviewed it on my blog too, and we feel about the same about it.

    I bought it on release day and loved it. I was so upset when I saw a lot of people slamming it, especially the people who wrote reviews just to admit that they wouldn't read it. I can't wait for the next one to come out.

  5. I need to post my review soon so I'm not gonna read this yet, but I am thrilled to see 4 stars! I loved this book and didn't expect to because I'd seen so many horribly negative reviews for it, but I'm glad I gave it a chance. Will definitely check this out once I've actually written my own review!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  6. Love the gif! I heard this book is good, but I checked out the sample of the audio and the narrator has an accent. I don't like accents and I struggle reading Fantasy. We'll see if I get to this. Great review!

  7. I really liked the book, too! I think sometimes books can get hyped up so much we then get too high expectations and we don't like the book as much and it gets poorer ratings. I loved Kelsea and thought she seemed intelligent (if not naive), brave, strong-willed, and caring. Just what a leader needs to be.

  8. I loved this book, though it was so freaking long! I'm not a huge fan of slow-paced books, so it kind of bugged me. I liked the characters, and I'm intrigued to see where the plot goes in the sequel. Great review! :)

  9. Ohh, I didn't realise this a) wasn't YA and b) was being made into a movie. OH. It makes sense now, actually. I still really want to read this, though. I've heard really mixed things too, so...eep. Fingers crossed. Maybe I'll see if my library has the audio (I always do better listening to books if they're slow/difficult.)

  10. I am still on the fence about this one, but I think that my interest is peaked enough to give it a shot!

  11. This sounds pretty interesting. I've seen the cover around, but never read the synopsis or gave it much thought. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much, and how awesome that Emma Watson is starring in the film. I'll definitely check it out before it hits theaters. I love her (who doesn't?). I like that she isn't shown as some gorgeous, confident girl. It's a nice change of pace to have a more unconventional heroine. Definitely interested now. Great review!

  12. I'm so glad to hear that you loved this one! I got really excited about it as well and then standoffish once the negative reviews started popping up. Maybe I'll go the audio route as you did, if only to inspire the completion of extra chores. ;)

  13. I think this has convinced me to give it a chance. I was so excited when I first heard of this, then heard some not so great reviews . . now I'll see for myself how good it is!


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