Rating: 5 stars
Before “The Invasion of the Tearling,” there was “The Queen of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen. It’s a riveting adult fantasy about a kingdom from an “other” time. There is no technology in this time, but there is war. And there was a mysterious “Crossing” in which the ancestors of the people in the Tearling and neighboring countries fled from a world filled with violence and war. When Queen Kelsea is brought to the capital of the Tearling to be Queen, she must navigate political alliances, shipments of her people to a neighboring powerful kingdom, and her own feelings of inadequacy.
In this sequel, “Invasion of the Tearling,” Kelsea is coming into her own. She has a strong sense of right and she is courageous. She is also finding herself imbued with a strange and powerful magic. Is it due to the two sapphires she was given and now wears around her neck? Part of this newfound magic is the ability to see into the past, before the Crossing, into the life of a woman named Lily.
Lily’s life becomes an important part of the book, and it’s an interesting world that she lives in. It’s a world that is somewhat familiar to us, but it’s a world that’s changed after an ultra-religious president is elected. In this world, the rich become even richer, the poor and marginalized become even more so, and women are deprived of their rights. Lily is married to a wealthy man, but he is — or becomes — weak and cruel. Because of her society’s anti-female rules, there is nowhere for Lily to go, and she has no means of escape from her awful marriage.
Yet in her world there are people, the rebels, who are fighting for a better world. This “better world” is mysterious, but Lily is intrigued. William Tear, the leader of the rebels, tells her about it. He says, “Picture a world where there are no rich and poor. No luxury, but everyone is fed and clothed and educated and cared for. God controls nothing. Books aren’t forbidden. Women aren’t the lower class. The color of your skin, the circumstances of your birth, these things don’t matter. Kindness and humanity are everything. There are no guns, no surveillance, no drugs, no debt, and greed holds no sway at all.”
Yet that world, the supposed “better world,” is not the world in which Kelsea lives. In her world, there are drugs, there is an extremely corrupt Church (in this book the author shows just how corrupt), and there is unmitigated evil. This book does not explain where everything went wrong, but that will keep everyone on tenterhooks until the next book is released.
The Tearling is on the brink of disaster when Kelsea, at the end of the book, saves it. But at what cost? Who is Kelsea’s father? And what do Lily and Kelsea really have in common? Where will the sapphires end up? What happens to the evil Queen of Mortmesne, the neighboring kingdom? And what happens to the mysterious shadow creature that Kelsea deals with?
These are all questions that readers will have to wait to have answered. Incidentally, this book is definitely for adults. Some of the scenes include rape, self-harm, murder and torture. But it is also altogether a thought-provoking and finely tuned flight of fancy.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Harper Books for review purposes.