We love to binge watch shows, but as we deal in books we’ll binge read a whole bunch of series for you and write about them. Be aware though, we’ll discuss the entire series, so expect there to be spoilers. Skip the books-section if you don’t want to know what happens.
What is the series about?
Kelsea is the young crown princess from the Tear kingdom. When she was still very little, her mother send her away to live with another couple to protect her from the Red Queen and everyone else who wanted to kill her. Living in seclusion, Kelsea learned about her Kingdom, but she finds that things are very different when she comes out of hiding on her 19th birthday. Taken by the Queen’s Guard, Kelsea is brought back to the Keep to overthrow her deadbeat uncle from the throne and take possession of her kingdom once again. She does this with the help of her sapphire necklace, an heir from William Tear, the man who crossed over from the near future of our world into this new luscious kingdom, by magical means.
So who wrote this?
I couldn’t find a lot on Erika Johansen, as she doesn’t seem to be a very public figure. She’s American, living in San Francisco with an MFA and a law degree. She’s still an attorney and writes books in her spare time. The Queen of the Tearling is her first publication.
Tell me about the books!
The Queen of The Tearling: In the first book we get acquainted with the world. Kelsea emerges from the cottage where she’s been staying her entire childhood and gets picked up by the Queen’s Guard to bring her back home. Here we meet Lazarus, future leader of the Queen’s Guard and Pen who will be her Close Guard. We also meet the people who’ve been taking care of her, Kelsea’s terrible uncle and a whole bunch of others. The most interesting ones are The Fetch, a mysterious Robin-Hood-with-a-dark-side type stranger, who Kelsea can’t help but fall for and the scary Red Queen of Mortmesne who wants to steal Kelsea’s sapphires because they have magical abilities. It takes a while before she finally gets to the Kingdom and even though many people dislike this book because it’s slow, I loved how Johansen took her time to work on the characters instead of throwing us into useless action. Kelsea is set up as a somewhat plumb, plain looking girl, who feels awful about not being a beautiful queen. So she makes up for it in moxie, reading power and justice.
The Invasion of the Tearling: In book 1, Kelsea pissed of the Queen of Mortmense by stopping the shipment of slaves to the Red Queen’s kingdom. This is now coming back to bite her in the ass. The sapphire necklaces are also taking it’s toll on Kelsea, even though she thinks they aren’t. They are making her prettier than she actually is, changing her features into those of a woman she is seeing in her dreams. This woman, Lily, lives in our near future, the pre-crossing world. That world is riddled with technology and surveillance, keeping women in check similarly to pre-Gilead The Handmaid’s Tale awfulness. Throughout the book we follow both women and learn what forced William Tear to cross over to this kingdom and that it is actually time travel! This made me go ‘whaaaaat?!‘. Also, Kelsea finally gets a love story arc and this book does not have enough of the Fetch. This book feels like Kelsea’s teenage angst stage which she luckily gets over near the end, emerging as a very powerful ruler facing off with the Red Queen.
TBA Book 3: Book two came out only a month ago and nothing is known yet about the third one. No title, no publication date, nothing. So I’m going to tell you what I want to happen. More Fetch. I love that guy. He’s cocky and charming and we need more of him. But I don’t want to find out that he’s Kelsea’s father. Because they should at least have one steamy moment. But on that note, I want to find out who Kelsea’s father is, I want more of Lazarus’ background and more of Kelsea’s strange first lady with the power of premonition and her children and more of Kelsea being badass but not necessarily pretty. Somehow I hope she gets un-prettied, because I liked how she was a different type of heroine, getting places not because of her looks, but because of her intelligence and ability to lead. And of course there needs to be the showdown with the Mort Queen. Book 2 ends on a cliffhanger and you just know their face off is going to be epic.
The Fate of the Tearling: God was I wrong in my predictions. None of the things I wanted to happen, happened. In book three we mostly follow Katie, a young girl that was born just after the crossing. A lot of time is spent on debating the political side of the post-crossing world in which religion doesn’t come off very well. I really liked that Johansen kept this story telling structure of Kelsea moving into other minds, but I hated what that part of the story did to the Fetch. My crush has been crushed and I don’t think I’ve ever been this disappointed with a man. Also he’s definitely not Kelsea’s father, but nothing steamy happens either. Kelsea does have a pretty awesome time hanging out with the Mort Queen and there are zombie children that are the creepiest. I actually like the much disputed ending as well. I think it’s great that Johansen dares to show that life is disappointing and that the greater good does not mean that everyone gets a good ending. I think it was very powerful to end on a depressing note for Kelsea, but it didn’t feel entirely deserved. The final installment of this series didn’t get to me as much as the previous two did and a big part of this was that the present-day story was much less interesting and urgent than the past. I didn’t feel too emotionally involved in the siege or in Kelsea’s danger, which made part of the book fall flat for me.
So, why should I read this series?
Because Hermione tells you to. Emma Watson LOVES these books so much she’s turning them into a movie and playing the role of Kelsea herself. For me, these books are what I had wished Outlander (the TV show, haven’t read the books) would have been like. A strong female lead, not taking shit from anyone in a medieval type magical setting. This book is fun and interesting and I did not once think it was too long. The Queen of The Tearling is also a very mature book, featuring a lot of swearing, violence and some sexy content, so it’s not for the faint of heart. Johansen does something different with a book that could have been a simple fantasy trilogy and that is what makes it interesting. I had no idea that she would explore the entire history of the Tear kingdom and that that would be a good idea. So I’m trusting her completely with the last installment and am very curious to see what twists and turns she will make for us.
Are there any special features/extras, because I need more?!
Nope. Not a single written word besides these two books. All we can do is deal with it.
Is there a box/gift set?
Not yet! Maybe when the third book comes out? The covers are good looking though. Would make for a good box-set.
How do I fill The Queen of The Tearling void?
I already mentioned Outlander, but I think those books will be too heavy on the romance, something Queen of the Tearling barely touches. A better pick would be something by V.E. Schwab, as she gets the witty/serious tone of adult fantasy right just as Johansen. And keeping with Atwood, besides the Handmaid’s Tale if you enjoyed Lily’s story, you should definitely try her MaddAddam trilogy as well.