The Queen Of The Tearling by Erika Johansen | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Queen Of The Tearling by Erika Johansen | Book ReviewThe Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen Of The Tearling #1
Also in this series: The Invasion of the Tearling, The Fate of the Tearling
Also by this author: The Invasion of the Tearling, The Fate of the Tearling
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-07-08
Genres: Coming of Age, Fantasy, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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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 really loved The Queen Of The Tearling by Erika Johansen. Honestly, it took me a while to get through, but I felt like it was ultimately worth it. I have seen rumblings about the hype surrounding this book and thankfully, I went into it after reading maybe one bad review so my expectations were low. Thus, Johansen’s debut ended up exceeding my expectations and I actually really loved it. Overall, this book is what I would venture call fantasy lite and depending on the type of reader you are and your interests, you will either really enjoy it or not. If you are into fantasy for swords and sorcery, this might not be the book for you. If you are into fantasy for the politics and the kingdom building, then I think you are going to really enjoy The Queen Of The Tearling.

Kelsea Raleigh is a princess who has been raised in the forest. The kingdom of Tear has been ruled by an incompetent Regent for the last nineteen years. Now, however, Tear is about to see great change as Kelsea assumes the mantle that is her birthright and begins the long journey to return to the Keep and to be coronated as Queen. Not everyone wants Kelsea to be queen though, and so her journey is fraught with peril. She will be pursued by assassins and kidnappers and killer hawks. Furthermore, Kelsea faces danger from outside of Tear, from the land of Mortmense where the Red Queen over there expects a tribute to be paid in Tearling slaves once a month least she invade the Tearling. There is a lot on Kelsea’s plate and so, the first in a new series, The Queen Of The Tearling is all about the set up of Kelsea’s dominion as Queen. The span of time in the book isn’t very long, I would say months at best and from the end, which isn’t a cliffhanger, there seems to be a lot more ground for Johansen to cover.

There were some elements to this book that I thought were really cool and I thought I would just break the rest of this book down by the elements that I enjoyed:

  • Kelsea is the titular character. If she wasn’t interesting or relatable, I am not sure that I would have liked this book as much. Kelsea can probably be accused of being the Mary Sue sort of character, in that she makes pretty much all of the correct decisions. She is level headed. She is smart. She is brave. She’s also quite plain. Not everyone is in love with her. She’s got a rigid backbone though and I liked reading about how she refused to back down to anyone, regardless of risk.
  • The World Building in The Queen Of The Tearling intrigued me. Granted, I would have liked a map with this book, I thought the way Johansen wove together elements of modern day with fantasy was kind of neat. You see, much of the book talks about the formation of the Tear which happened during this event called The Crossing where ships lead by a man called William Tear came into the “New World” but much of modern technology, especially medical technology was lost on the journey. Yet, there’s hints to our world with mention of Rowling and eReaders. However, for the most part, The Queen Of The Tearling feels feudal in it’s world. The Tear is an area bereft of natural resources, except for wood and even that isn’t much of a bargaining chip. I liked reading about this because I am a nerd about world building and economy and resources.
  • Social Justice plays quite the role in this book. When Kelsea ascends the throne, she sees that the land of the Tearling is not the utopia that William Tear had imagined. The populace is illiterate, as education has fallen by the wayside. The people are starved and hungry. The nobles hide in towers and live off the backs of the peasants. Many of the people are taken via the Census and shipped to Mortmense to be slaves. There’s a lot wrong with the Tearling and so, part of this book deals with Kelsea’s steps to rectify this.
  • The Queen’s Guard  plays an important role, especially two characters called the Mace and Pen. There’s not really any romance between Kelsea and her guards. Instead, these men have a strict code of honor and have vowed to lay down their lives for Kelsea and to do as she says. The men of the guard are fascinating and I loved seeing Kelsea slowly win them over as she proves that she is nothing like her featherhead mother.
  • The writing in The Queen Of The Tearling felt very accessible and not long winded at all. I would call this book fantasy lite because it does not require huge investment on the reader’s end. The book is very exciting and high stakes. The pacing moves along at a nice clip. There’s not pages and pages of meandering description. The characterization is solid. The world building is solid. There are many elements that feel naturally woven in and authentic, like Johansen’s use of the Church, for example. I really think that people who don’t regularly read fantasy will really enjoy this book. Those that do read fantasy on the regular will probably feel that this book falls into some well tread paths, but give it a shot. It’s quite the entertaining read.
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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Ooh I’ve been curious about this one! I am all about fantasy lite so I’m thinking this will be a good fit. Sometimes fantasy just goes over my head but you saying it’s accessible gives me hope. Thanks for the scoop!

  2. The politics is usually what draws me to fantasy, and while I thought this book was okay, it wasn’t a home run for me. I think it came down to Kelsea’s bland character and the almost nonsensical world-building. While it could be something for later books, I never thought the reasoning for reverting to a feudal society was explained. I will probably check out the sequel, if only because the rogue guy interested me. I did like the message of social justice, too.

  3. It’s so nice when a book exceeds your expectations, isn’t it? I am not 100% sure this book is for me, because I have a hard time with kingdom politics, but at the same time, I’m really curious. Kelsea seems like an amazing character.

  4. YES!! I really liked this story, too. While there was a lot of set-up in this story, I also liked that it showed Kelsea moving from the girl hiding in the forest to someone who has the potential to be a fantastic ruler. It feels like she’s being set up for a big fall, though, considering what a pedestal her people have already put her on…I’m curious about what’s going to happen next (and hoping we’ll get some more info about The Crossing and the world before and where the hell they actually are!!).

  5. I’m very glad to hear that you enjoyed this book! I’ve been interested in reading it for quite some time (especially after seeing the cover for it), and it’s coming up on my reading pile very soon. It seems like it’s definitely got elements that I personally enjoy in my fantasy books, so I’m hoping I like it as much as you did!

  6. I am kicking myself for missing this one. I mixed this book up with the Kingdom of a Thousand Wounds, and I accidentally related them together in my head. I’m looking forward to the release of this book.