Rating: 2.5 Stars
Published: July 2014
Genre: Fantasy/ Dystopian
Mace shrugged. “I could tell you wouldn’t be able to focus on anything until we got you some books.”
“It means the world to me.”
“I don’t understand your fascination with the damned things. They don’t feed or protect you. They don’t keep you alive. But I see that they’re important to you.”
Summary taken from Goodreads: Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.
Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.
Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”
Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.
This is shelved as YA on Goodreads but to be clear, it is not. Mature young adults could read it, sure. I guess it all depends on the person’s reading level. I mean, I read The Da Vinci Code when I was 12 because my mom didn’t censor my reading (and I am eternally grateful). But other parents who do, probably wouldn’t like kids 14 & under reading this book. There is a decent amount of profanity, talks about rape & abuse, and sex. It’s nothing I feel that can’t be handled but if you are adverse to those subjects, at least you’ll be warned.
At the beginning, it was new, exciting, & different. I was rapt. There was some slow points in this book towards the middle. It started strong and fast paced but then it got bogged down with too much extra information. There may have been too many characters the writer was showcasing. I felt I really didn’t care about a few of them. It did pick up for me again, though. I wanted to read this through to the end just to see how it would leave off.
So, what I don’t like, is that the plot & setting are completely lacking and confusing. There was apparently a crossing from America to New Europe, I think. So, what happened to Old Europe? Why did they even have to leave America? They mention New London & the London Bridge but no idea what happened to the people LIVING there before the mysterious crossing. Also, it reads like a medieval fantasy but with mentions of contemporary authors like J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien. Say what? Can’t say it helps with the confusion. They have contraception but not a lot of doctors, hardly any science, and they’re back to using maces, swords, and knives as weapons. I just don’t understand.
Also, the enemy is the Red Queen. Really? Like from Alice in Wonderful? Was there no title better fitting than that? For the majority, if not all, of the book, the Red Queen did not seem all that evil. I mean, she had a lot of sex then killed the slaves she slept it. It’s rude & unnecessary but not EVIL. There’s another glimpse of her treachery at the end of the novel which sheds minimal insights. Guess we’ll find out in next book.
The magic doesn’t seem to have any rules, which is odd to me. Kelsea & Andalie have visions but they’re not consistent. Mace apparently is a good judge of character for some reason but can’t figure out who traitor is among his own men. Oookkay. The Fetch has some mystical/magical powers about him, too, though they’re not explained at all. Speaking of the Fetch, I loved him. I loved his interactions with Kelsea and one of my favorite scenes was when they were together with his men playing cards and telling stories. If there was more Fetch and less unnecessary characters like the Gate Guard obsessing over his wife, Allie, I think I would like this more.
This is hard for me to rate because while they’re a lot of things wrong with it, I did enjoy reading it. I honestly liked the beginning of this. I had high hopes. It was compelling and though I spent a lot of time confused, it was also easy enough to disregard all the plot holes & inconsistencies and just enjoy reading it. I’m curious and interested despite everything.
Over all, I liked the intrigue and the uncertainty. I enjoyed watching Kelsea come into her own as a ruler. I’m very interesting in learning more about the Fetch and yes, I’m a bit curious to find out who Kelsea’s dad turns out to be. However, the more I think about it, the more I wonder what it could have been like if there was more world-building and if things were more clear and less uncertain. This is the first in a trilogy, this novel should be the one to answer our questions about the setting yet it did no such thing. I hold out hope that Erika Johansen develops everything that was lacking in this installment for the next two. If she can get better, then I know I didn’t waste my time.
There is currently a movie in development. It’s rumored to star Emma Watson. While I love Emma, unless she gains weight and is made up to not be her gorgeous self, I don’t like this casting choice. Kelsea is plump and not attractive. Many of the characters comment on it. No one would ever say that about Emma Watson. I will be eagerly awaiting casting choices and news of the film, however. I will always watch a movie with Emma in it and this will be no exception even though I really don’t know how this is going to work. Until then, I’ll occupy my time with The Invasion of the Tearling, the second book in this series which I will getting from my library. I own this novel but I got it from a thrift store, thank goodness.