The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Buddy Read with Michael from Bitten by a radioactive book and some other BookTubers!

I went into this book completely expecting to hate it due to what a lot of my online and real life friends thought of it, but I actually didn’t. I’m not saying it was perfect, or that I loved it, or that it will go on my favorite’s shelf anytime soon, but it was enjoyable to read, despite certain parts.

Also, I know most authors have no say in their covers, but Erika Johansen seriously hit the lottery. This cover is so absolutely, breathtakingly, gorgeous.

This story is about a young girl, Kelsea, who has lived her life in hiding with two guardians. One guardian teaches her about the outside and how to mildly fight, and the other teaches her about royal decree and all her other educational needs. She has to wear a sapphire pendant around her neck at all times to prove her royal blood, along with a mysterious scar that she has on her arm. She has known from a young age, that on her nineteenth birthday her mother’s royal guard (before she died) will come for her and help her rightfully reclaim her throne.

There are many people that do not want to see this young girl take the throne, the main threat being the Red Queen from a different kingdom. There is so much mystery in this story about the Red Queen’s magic and the importance of this sapphire necklace(s). There is even more mystery with Kelsea’s parentage. Her father is a complete mystery, but her mother is known, and disliked, by everyone, yet no one will really fill Kelsea in on any real information about her.

On her nineteenth birthday, the guards do come and take her away willingly. It’s a struggle to not only get her to her city to rule, but to keep her alive long enough for her to even be crowned Queen. Upon arrival to the city she sees an event that no one could prepare her for. She makes an immediate decision that will completely change the future for her kingdom.

So I liked this book, but why didn’t I love this book? Well, even though I enjoyed the premise and the main story, there were quite a few things that just did not work. I hope in the movie version, with Emma Watson, they can improve a lot of these things, or even just go into a greater explanation.

I will say that Kelsea can be pretty freakin’ aggravating, and is probably a terrible representation to read about if you’re a plus size person. When I first understood that she was bigger I was happy, because “yay, diversity!”, but throughout the book she constantly wants to lose weight for this man. Hell, this man she barely knows, that kidnapped her. She is also very envious of a sex slave that she rescues because she is so beautiful. I mean, what even is that? She can’t lack that much empathy or self-awareness, right? This book also completely harps on the fact she is “plain”, like every person in this world have the same opinion that cannot be deviated from. It just comes off as body-shaming and doesn’t feel good to read about. I know Kelsea is selfless and does great things in this book for the Tearling, I also understand that she is only nineteen, but she’s been locked away for nineteen years, where the hell did she develop such terrible body insecurities? I actually think this book is a trigger for weight issues.

In general, I’m a little hard-pressed to even consider this book as young-adult. The main antagonist specializes in selling slaves, mostly for pleasure. Hell, in the first scene we see of the Red Queen, she cuts the tongue and severs the vocal cords of a sex slave she has, because he was snoring. There are many mentions of the men in charge of the human traders being pedophiles. So all these things on top of the terrible self-esteem in this book, I would be really apprehensive to recommend this to anyone younger.

I loved how this book was set 300 years in the future. I’ve never read a fantasy book with that sort of twist. I think the actual Tearling is a country that is part of a new continent that America and Britain became after the apocalypse that happened. I mean, that sounds pretty interesting, and I’d love to know how that actually happened. I really enjoyed when she would bring up pennies or some of the books I’ve read and loved from this “old world”. Yet, I am a little confused how they have all seven Harry Potter books, but they still lack so much medical help. I know they claim all the doctors and equipment sank on one ship, but no medical books survived? Hell, any books about “modern” connivances really, because this “new” world definitely seems medieval. They still ride horses, they wear long elaborate dresses, they have very basic building materials, and wield maces with no guns what so ever. Any helpful world building books got lost or burned, but someone was able to save all seven Harry Potters? It just is so unrealistic.

Lastly, her guards seem so inadequate. They do such reckless things while guarding Kelsea, and they never trust or believe her. Didn’t they vow their life to her? Then freakin’ listen to her when she says you guys need to leave the keep and rescue some people without questioning her. I understand that many people are looking to kill Kelsea, but some of the attacks just seemed like really poor guarding (the bathroom scene in particular).

Okay, okay, I know I just went on a crazy rant. And you guys are probably like “Melanie, are you sure you liked this book?” But I really did. I just can’t ignore the reasons that, I’m sure, are why my friends gave this a one star rating. This book isn’t perfect, far from it, but it really was entertaining for me. Besides the body ignorance, Kelsea is a good person and I sympathized with every harsh thing she did. The world building isn’t Mistborn level, but it intrigued me enough to read this book rather quickly and want to read the second installment afterwards.

Basically, I can see why people hate this book, but I can also see why people love this book. I guess I’m just the weird girl in the middle.

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