Monday, July 13, 2015

Jenn's Review: The Queen of the Tearling

Author: Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling, #1
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 448
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  NA Fantasy, Dystopian
Rating: 3.25
Bottom Line: A stumbling novel that could have been brilliant with more editing
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Blurb:  Her throne awaits . . . if she can live long enough to take it.

It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They’d come to escort her back to the place of her birth – and to ensure she survives long enough to be able to take possession of what is rightfully hers.

But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders. Unlike many nineteen-year-olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and dangerous.

Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known . . . or be dead within the week.

Combining thrilling adventure and action, dark magic, mystery and romance, The Queen of the Tearling is the debut of a born storyteller blessed with a startling imagination.

Review:  Most reviewers either loved or hated this book and I am on the fence.  I don't read many dystopian novels because they usually fail to capture my interest in the premise.  Although this caught my eye, establishing the world took so many chapters my interest began to wain.  In fact, I attempted to read this book several times and failed miserably... however listening to it worked wonders, so welcome to my first audio book review.

The first few chapters are very detailed in the setup (I remember a particularly long passage about a door)   and also switched points of view several times which disrupted the continuity. Once I got beyond the first third of the book, I found it was intriguing.  The story is modernistic Arthurian with a compelling though somewhat familiar in premise.  However for all of the plot exposition I felt that there wasn't a clear definition of the time period the book is set in.  Had you not read the blurb you would never have known it was set in the future until midway through the book.

This is definitely and Adult or New Adult Fantasy -which I rarely read because I find the adult themes distracting to the magic of the fantasy.  There are lots of mature themes in the book, rape, sex, murder, child slavery... and while I will be the first to admit some of it helped with the world building and were necessary to the plot, a lot of it felt gratuitous and existed only for shock value.  None of it was overly graphic but I was particularly bothered by the fleeting treatment of the victims and the glossing over of the aftermath.  If you are going to deal with these topics, take them on in their entirety or just edit them out.  

Kelsea's naivetee leads to some cringeworthy moments.  I still have no idea who or what the Red Queen is besides a sex-crazed sorceress.  However, there are plenty of interesting characters, perhaps a few too many to keep track of at first but they all sort themselves out eventually. I want to know more about all of them and in the murk of this novel, that is Erika Johansen's shining success.  By the time I was two thirds of the way through, I found myself involved in the story.  Things start to get rolling and the novel comes to a close.

Will I read the second one?  Yes, at least I'll try (I may have to listen to it).  I can't help feeling that somewhere underneath it all is a decent series -- with different editing, it may even have been a fantastic series.



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