Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: HarperCollins Audio and Blackstone Audio, 2014 (print available from Harper)
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren
Rating: 4.5 stars
Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, the 19-year-old heir to the Tearling throne, has been in hiding since she was one year old. Raised by an older couple with the knowledge that she would one day rule her kingdom, the time has come for her to return to the castle and take her place as queen. Though, of course, this will not be an easy task. Many want her dead, including her uncle the regent; Arlen Thorne, a man with many tricks up his sleeve; and the dreaded Red Queen of Mortmesne, who kills and orders death easily and without qualm, and has brought terror across the kingdoms. With her devoted Queen's Guard led by Lazarus by her side, Kelsea must survive long enough to lift the Tearling from the brink of ruin.
First, let me say that I was not expecting this book to be so excellent. Kelsea is a formidable heroine, and though young and a bit naive in politics, she has a remarkable mind and is a born leader. The intrigue, action, and politics that make up the plot are all very well paced, and the shifting of perspective (all in third person, each perspective giving us insight into one of a handful of characters' thoughts) allows the readers to see what is happening around the kingdom and gives insight into what we might expect Kelsea to encounter.
I think what surprised me most was Johansen's world itself. I was fascinated. The book starts out sounding like a typical high fantasy set in a medieval world, but as the story progresses, there are more and more clues as to what this world truly is. Not a fantasy, but a science fiction novel. A dystopia. Something has happened called the Crossing, and once the old world crossed over to this new world, everything collapsed. Hints of the world as we know it pop up now and then, and I kept trying to glean more and more information. Johansen is not forthcoming with the history of how the Tearling, Mortmesne, and the other surrounding countries came to be. I am very much looking forward to the next installment so I can get some of this information!
(As a quick note, this is not a teen novel—there are some very disturbing scenes, and a lot of sexual situations. That's not to say a mature teen couldn't handle it, but I wanted to make that distinction as I normally review teen lit.)
I listened to The Queen of the Tearling on audio, and Katherine Kellgren is, as always, a master of her craft. If you've never listened to her before, trust me, she is one of, if not the, best.
I am eager to hear about the movie that is supposedly going to be made, especially casting. It seems like it might be a book that lends itself to a movie version; I hope the producers do it justice.
Disclosure: I got this audiobook from my local library.