The trilogy that began with “The Queen of the Tearling,” continued with “The Invasion of the Tearling,” now ends with “The Fate of the Tearling.” The books seem almost prescient — especially the last book.
The world in the trilogy is a new continent where a group of people live together. They are those who left a world filled with violence, the rich and the rest — who lived horrible lives, to follow a visionary, William Tear, to a better place. But the “better place” is not better.
In fact, the world in which Kelsea, the Queen of the Tearling lives, is one in which “… there are drugs, there is an extremely corrupt Church (in this book the author shows just how corrupt), and there is unmitigated evil.”
Kelsea often has visions of the past. She sees the pre-crossing world through the eyes of Lily, William Tear’s lover, who was in an abusive marriage. 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.
In this book, Kelsea has visions of a different character from the past. She is someone who was there at the beginning of the new world. Through her eyes, Kelsea sees the beginning of unrest in the small colony. She sees the cause of it, and the reader is left wondering whether mankind is capable of the utopia William Tear envisioned.
With Kelsea’s kingdom on the verge of destruction, she must decide how to act and if changing the past is worth the risk of making things worse. As in the other two books, Kelsea is not a perfect protagonist. She has real flaws, and she makes mistakes.
Johansen also creates a commentary on the current state of world issues — even though the book was written over a year ago. She writes about fear and how it can corrupt. “Entire countries would close their borders and build walls to keep out phantom threats. Can you imagine?”
Johansen also describes the utopia she envisions for the world of the Tearling. “…a thriving economy, with open trade and a free flow of information. The Tearling had laws, codified laws, and a judiciary to enforce them. Church had been cleaved from state. The kingdom was dotted not only with bookstores but with schools and universities. Every worker earned a living wage. People raised their children without fear of violence…”
This series is not only a fabulous adult combination fantasy, scifi, and action trilogy, it’s a commentary on society and where our world is heading. In a country where the rich continue to get richer and the chasm between working people and the wealthy is growing into a bottomless abyss, this trilogy could almost serve as a cautionary tale. With more and more government control, government spying, privileges that only the very rich can enjoy, we seem perilously close to the “pre-crossing” society with its discrimination against minorities and women. Recent political events have brought out the ugliness that hides in our society.
The message in the beautifully written story is that no personal sacrifice is too great in a quest for a better society. The theme is how wonderful a world would be where there is mutual respect for all, and where no one person’s or group’s ideals are forced on others. Everyone has rights — the rights to believe in God or not, the right to live and work where one wants, and the right to live a life free from violence and invasions of privacy from a corrupt or tyrannical government or rule.
It’s a lovely theme. Johansen’s writing is filled with beautiful, exacting descriptions. “The walls were constructed not of the light grey stone that held up the Keep but of deep, sand-colored blocks that appeared to have been etched by wind and time.” The dialogue is also exacting, as people “barked,” “murmured,” and “snapped.” It’s just good writing. No smirks (quite overused in much fiction recently.)
Now is a perfect time to start the series because once a reader begins, he or she will want to read the entire trilogy. (In fact, a personal aside is that during Thanksgiving dinner, I began to recommend the trilogy to my adult son and his wife. Before I finished my sentence, they burst out, “You have the last book? Can we have it? We’ve been waiting to read it. We love the series!!” They bought two of each of the first two books so they could read it together.) This is truly a book that is ageless and timeless, and although it’s about a queen, men and women will equally enjoy the trilogy.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Harper, the publisher, for review purposes. Thanks to the publisher for including a blurb in the promotional material from my original review of “The Invasion of the Tearling” published on the now-defunct Examiner.com website. The blurb: “Will keep everyone on tenterhooks until the next book is released…a thought-provoking and finely tuned flight of fancy.”