by Erika Johansen
Genre: New Adult/High Fantasy
Published July 8, 2014
Copy: Own, Hardcover
On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.
Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.
But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.
I don’t quite know how to write this review. This book drew me in and held me while it weaved its tale, but there were several moments in the book that annoyed me. I can’t quite explain why this one is difficult to write. I loved the writing, and how Erika Johansen draws you into the world of the Tearling and Mortmesne with such ease.
I loved Kelsea (and not just because we share the same name), Queen of the Tearling. She is plain, fierce, scared, determined, and succumbs to bouts of jealousy which she shoves to the side; in short, she is imperfect, and I loved that. With the education she received while she was hidden away with her foster parents, she knows in what direction she wants to take her country and sets about putting those rules into place, while abolishing those she despises. I thought it was nice that romance was not the main plot line of the novel; it was even a sideline, really. She is attracted to The Fetch-a mysterious bandit that she meets on the way to claim her throne-but nothing comes of it. It was actually rather refreshing not to have romance the focus of a novel. There was more of a focus on Kelsea coming into her queendom and adjusting to it. I liked how strong she was, both during the ride towards her capital (which is fraught with danger), and when she establishes herself as Queen (which is also fraught with danger). Basically, Kelsea’s life is fraught with danger.
My biggest critique is that there is not really any backstory to how this world came about. There are pieces here and there, but nothing to really tell us a whole lot. There is a hint that this world came about after a crossing made my the Americans and the British, but that is it. I am hoping that there is more in the second and third book.