The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen makes me hate myself


I’m going to paraphrase a quote on the cover of the sequel to The Queen of the Tearling: “KATNISS EVERDEAN BETTER WATCH OUT.”


Some author somewhere compared the protagonist of this novel to Katniss Everdean of The Hunger Games.

Is that fair? No, not to either side. Katniss is a whiney crybaby and Klesea Gylnn, main character of The Queen of the Tearling, is cardboard: serviceable, but made of recycled materials.

That’s the thing about this novel: it’s made of reused concepts. Everything about it has been done before. It’s an unoriginal, blasé, been-there-done-that, Frankenstein of ideas with a semblance of a plot and climax, stuffed into 434 pages that – for reasons beyond my understanding – is split into three ‘books’ (read: sections).

The Summary

On her 19th birthday, Kelsea Raleigh Glynn is escorted from exile back to her rightful place on the Tearling throne. There she must attempt to rebuild her country after the poor choices of her uncle and former ruler, The Regent, and save her people from a potential invasion from the Red Queen of Mortmesne.

In Book I, Kelsea leaves her foster parents and travels the countryside to New London, nearly escaping death from The Caden (a group of assassins) and Mortmesne hawks. She meets a man named The Fetch, who is working against the law, but is clearly on her side. She also makes a decree that wins the people’s favor, but spells danger for the country.

In Book II, Kelsea nearly avoids a second assassination during her coronation, but still manages to become queen. Thereafter, she deals with the consequences of her earlier decree and tries to clean up her uncle’s mess within The Keep (her castle). She also makes nice with her Queen’s guards.

In Book III, Kelsea and her guards rush to the border between Tearling and Mortmesne after a premonition/vision she has during her sleep. The climax of the novel occurs.

The Good and the Bad

The Queen of the Tearling is a strange little novel. None of it is original, but it kept me reading. This was my first experience of ‘turn off my brain’ kind of reading. I usually get feelings when I read a book – be they anger or enjoyment – but there wasn’t much here. I just kept going and soon enough, I was done.

It’s a good beach book – in that you could finish it at the beach and throw it into a bonfire and feel no remorse.

But it was good?? It was a book that somehow kept me interested?? I don’t know why. Everything in The Queen of the Tearling has been seen before. Kelsea is a child thought dead that returns to society with fan fare: Harry Potter. There’s an evil tyrant who wants to kill Kelsea: Snow White. The evil tyrant is immortal: Tangled. A mysterious man saves Kelsea and aids her in the background: Sailor Moon

Here’s a list of things that happen in the book I’ve seen before. Honestly, I could make a BINGO card out of this shit.

  • Kelsea falls for a handsome stranger who rescues her.
  • A side character does bad things to save his family, but realizes his mistakes at the end
  • Kelsea repeatedly compares herself to more attractive women, but is told ‘beauty isn’t everything’
  • The good old ‘reveal of a masked character, but they aren’t named because of suspense’ (exact line used is “But you’re supposed to be dead!”)
  • There are various references to ‘our world’ via well known novels/novelists (there’s seriously a Harry Potter reference #desperateforattention)
  • Kelsea sways a tsundere-like girl into doing something
  • Kelsea has a special item that’s repeatedly referred to but it’s purpose is not revealed.
  • Kelsea talks to herself but answers in the voice of another character
  • Kelsea’s foster mother is cold to her, but her foster father is loving.
  • Kelsea has premonition(?) future-vision(?) powers.
  • There’s a name drop of the title
  • There’s an evil entity controlling the Red Queen
  • The Red Queen is immortal via sacrifice.
  • The Red Queen (evil) has a lot of sex but Kelsea (good) is chaste.

I could go on…

And you know why I hate myself? Because despite my better judgement, my frugalness, my intention to lessen my backlog of novels; I want to read the sequels. I’m not going to pay full price (you really don’t deserve the ‘national bestseller’ Erika Johanson, or the repeated comparisons of Kelsea to Katniss), but if I see it in the library I’ll probably snatch it up and just hate myself even more.

Final Thoughts/Rating

Is it good? No. Is it readable? Very much so.

5/10. True middle of the road.


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