Review of The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)The Queen of the Tearling
By: Erika Johansen
Release Date: July 8th 2014
Publisher: Harper
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Format: Electronic Arc

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Note: The Queen of Tearling is not a young adult book. There are some mature topics discussed in this book (rape, torture, sexual scenes, etc).

My Rating:

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 Story:
See that summary up above? It’s pretty lengthy and dense- much like the book itself. Overall I’m so increbily mixed about Tearling I really have no idea if I like it or not. I will say that the first chapter was 10% of the book! It felt like it took forever to read and I wasn’t sure I’d last beyond it and consequently put the book aside for more than a month.

I kept seeing positive reviews so decided to try it again and found it to be much more interesting. The pacing was faster and the chapters a bit shorter. But as I continued to read there were areas that dragged so badly for me and I wanted nothing more than to put the book away and leave it there. I stuck with it and I’m glad that I did (since I did enjoy some parts rather well) though upon finishing I felt a rush of relief that I’d actually finished.

I liked the world that Johansen created though it felt a bit disjointed at times. I was able to visualize it for the most part though and I liked the surprise about when this book was set. You’ll have to read it for yourself or in a different review to find out because…spoilers. Though, even after reading the book you won’t have a full picture of what or why things happened the way they did. There was a lot about this world that was not revealed in this first book.

Beyond the length of this book, a good amount of other things didn’t work for me. Really, it’s hard to put my finger on exactly but none of it felt overly original beyond some of the world crafting (and even that wasn’t looked into enough for my taste). I felt like I’d seen much of it before though I couldn’t pick out specifically where.

There were a lot of moments that focused on rape and children’s deaths. I’m never a fan of either being utilized in my reading material though at times it is done in a way that moves the story forward. I never felt that the scenes in this book really did much other than present the gruesomeness of the world and people. I could have done without it.

The Characters:
I had a lot of problems with the characters though generally they were okay. Our main character, Kelsea, was naïve a lot of the time and to me focused on the wrong crises going on in her kingdom. One example- there was an impending invasion that she was warned about which would cause many of her people to be brutally murdered. But instead of focusing on that she spent a good amount of her thinking time pondering how she was going to bring literature to the people. I love books (obviously) but if your people are dead they won’t be enjoying a good book. Her character did have some growth that I’m sure will continue through the course of the series. I really never loved or hated her but felt generally meh though I did want her to prevail because I did care about some of the secondary characters.

Mace was one of the most interesting because he seemed to be the most well rounded. I was interested in learning more about his past and how he became the person he was. Though I enjoyed him he was often incredibly bad at his duty and I wondered how exactly he was considered the best. The other members of the guard sort of meshed together and really didn’t stick with me.

Now, my favorite character was the mysterious maybe or maybe not romantic interest. He was barely in the story but I found the sections that he was in read much faster for me.  I’m curious to learn more about who he was exactly. As for the romantic bit…I could see why Kelsea felt the way she did though it was sort of insta-love. But, since she hasn’t had much experience with men it was understandable to me. Plus, there wasn’t a lot of attention drawn to it. I am curious what will happen in regards to this relationship in later books.

There were sections where the author decided to show the point of view from random characters, like Thomas the reagent and semi- villain. Also, the Red Queen’s perspective was shown a couple of times. Though her sections did give me some insight into who she was there was never any depth in her character and she wasn’t explored very thoroughly. These point of views were tedious at times only because I never felt that they added that much to the story.

Final Thoughts:
This was such a mixed read for me. I have no clue how I felt because I really liked certain sections and know that I could grow to love some of the characters. On the other hand, nothing felt all that new to me as I read and the pacing felt so disjointed and uneven. The fact that when I finished I felt that I deserved accolades speaks volumes to me on how this book moved for me. Would I recommend this one? I have no clue! Some of my blogger friends loved it and others hated it. Will I read the next book in the series? I really don’t know-I think I’ll be relying on my canaries to sound off before I decide.


  1. says

    Hmmm, I don’t how I feel about this book anymore after reading your review. I just finished reading a review of four stars and the girl totally convinced me but she didn’t not include some things you did. That’s why I’m reconsidering it. Also, I did not know it wasn’t YA, thanks for the clarification. Great honest review! 🙂

    Lola @Seeing Night Reviews

    • says

      Many, many people have absolutely loved it. It really seems to be a love or hate type of book. To me, it did not resonate but maybe it would for you? If you are interested I’d try it at the very least.

  2. says

    I loved this novel. The only problem I had originally was the length of the infomation laden first chapter, but after I was farther into the book I realized the need for it. As far as the “gruesomness” it is in my opinion nessesary to show the true face of the world they live in. Remember, this is not a YA, so you are going to get adult themes. As far as character development, I felt she went far and beyond in characterization. Even the secondary characters were fleshed out. I gave this book five stars.

  3. says

    Hmmm…I’m saving this one for my August vacation. The information density is a big reason why I was always reluctant to read fantasy because it seems like a genre characteristic. I am still going to give this one a try, though.

    • says

      I’ve read a good amount of fantasy and though a lot of it is dense I typically have a continued interest in it. I hope this one works for you Kate…let me know what you think!

    • says

      Yep, yep. I really don’t know if I’d want to read another in the series. I had such high hopes too because it sounded right up my alley. Oh well.

  4. says

    Interesting. I had thought I would love this one based on the first chapter since I actually quite enjoyed it when we read it oh so long ago ;-). However I’m now at like 20% or something and just don’t really feel like picking it up again ya know? I’ve been seeing all the positive reviews and I think I’ll love the world since I like strange stuff like that (and agreed about the semi-romantic interest, so intrigued!), but I’m worried that I won’t be able to get through it…. We’ll see I guess!

    • says

      I hope you do finish it just so we can talk about it! I had to push myself to continue too. I thought the first bit when she met up with the guard was very fast paced and interesting but from there it started to lag again. Let me know if you pick it up again.

  5. says

    Such strong feelings back and forth on this one! I’m in the loved it camp, but I can see that it isn’t for everyone. I agree with you about Mace-I want to know his story.

    • says

      Ugh yes! I was so very mixed about it–which seems to be sort of rare. Most people either love or hate it. I really want to see more backstory to Mace. I’ll be very curious to hear what others think of the follow-up.

  6. says

    I’m still fairly torn about reading this one or not, and your review, along with Carina’s opinion about this book are making me lean to the side of no… The TBR list is already immense enough to get through a massive long book that feels even longer, ya know?
    Thanks for your very honest and balanced review, Kristen!

  7. says

    Amazing review Kristen. <3 Sigh. This book. I HATED IT, lol 😀 I don't think I will read the sequel. I might peek at it a lot, though, lol. It just upsets me that it was so bad :p I don't like bad books, hih. Anyway. I'm sorry you didn't fully love this book either. But glad you managed to like it a little bit 🙂 I agree with a lot of the things you say about it. Sigh. Just, not a book for me.

  8. says

    Hmmm interesting..I’ve been hearing mixed reviews about this book and at this point, I can’t make up my mind if I want to buy a copy (unless it’s on sale at Chapters then I’ll buy it). Other then that, it won’t hurt if I gave it a try. I’m only interested in reading it because of what I heard of Emma Watson.=)

    • says

      If you read it I’ll be curious which camp you fall into. I am very curious about the movie talk and Emma Watson too. I think it might work better as a movie to be honest.

  9. says

    It seems like the ones I wasn’t able to get to before the release date are the ones you had trouble with this week. 🙁 This saddens me because I really wanted this one to be good. Maybe the movie will be better? How disappointing…glad I didn’t tackle this monster yet. I think I’ll check to see if my library has it on audio…maybe that will help.

    • says

      I wanted this one to be good so badly. I think this would be better as a movie since it would have to be faster paced and some of it would be cut. If you read it I’ll be so curious to see what you think.


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