Rating: 5 stars
Erika Johansen’s debut novel, “The Queen of the Tearling” is a masterpiece. It’s about a time in the future when society has devolved into something like the Middle Ages — no modern comforts but lots of nobles and poor common folk.
Into this mix comes the Queen, a nineteen-year-old girl named Kelsea, who was raised by a couple in secret. She never attended school, but was assiduously tutored and taught how to think and govern. The story is fantasy because there is a touch of magic in the pages. Kelsea has the Queen’s sapphire necklace which itself has magical properties. The Red Queen, ruler of the powerful neighboring country, Mortmesne, also has magic — hers from an evil source.
The world (continent) that Johansen builds is deftly detailed, and her characters are beautifully drawn. It’s no wonder that Warner Brothers acquired the film rights for this movie; but no film could really do justice to the story. While the story is written in third person narrative, Johansen manages to share Kelsea’s feelings and thoughts with the reader so that the reader understands Kelsea’s motivations.
Kelsea is a great character. She is not pretty (this is not a romance, folks!) and does not feel queenly much of the time. But she does feel driven, especially when the King’s and Queen’s jewels are together — helping her and guiding her. Kelsea feels insecure at times, but she also feels secure in knowing the right thing to do. Her character is part of what makes this book a great read — readers want to know what she’s going to do next.
This is not a short, quick read. At over 400 pages, this is a book with some heft. It’s also a book with a beautifully designed cover that looks both elegant and regal, and there’s a lovely red ribbon bookmark attached.
While this reviewer is not normally an adult fantasy fan — count me in for this series! It will appeal to many types of readers simply because of the good writing, the cast of great characters and the plot.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Harper, for review purposes.