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.
A hidden princess, an evil sorceress, and a kingdom in turmoil. The Queen of the Tearling presents the basic qualities of a fantasy world but through a new perspective. That is through the eyes of 19 year old Kelsea. Kelsea has been hidden away her whole life learning all about the kingdom she must one day rule. The time comes that she has to face her destiny so she makes the journey with her mother's former guards to her new kingdom. Along the way she discovers that the kingdom her mother left her with isn't what she expected. She learns of the mass killings, rape, and slavery that's been going on while she was growing up in seclusion. It's up to her to take back her kingdom and create a peaceful land for her people. However, before peace comes the inevitable battle between good and evil. The evil coming in the form of The Red Queen, a sorceress from another land that will do anything to keep the world just as chaotic as the day she came into rule.
The Queen of the Tearling is the type of book that makes you hunker down and read it in one sitting. It's over 400 pages but the story is so well conceived and interesting that it makes the time go by easily. The first thing I should mention about this book is that unlike it's been promoted you should not go into it thinking it's going to be like The Hunger Games or The Game of Thrones. I think that misconception has lead some people to be disappointed in this book which is too bad because it's a great read. I was really surprised by how much I liked the plot and the magic that came with it.
Kelsea is described as a plain girl who loves to read. She's intelligent and cares for her people. She's the only one with power that actually does something about the state that her land is in. Before she comes into rule there is a treaty in place between her kingdom and Mortmesne. Each month she has to ship off a number of people to Mortmesne so that they don't invade. Those people are used for slave labor, gifts to nobles, and for sex. Everyone is terrified by The Red Queen's wrath but Kelsea decides it's time to take a stand. The way in which her people are living is not right and she intends to do something about it. I really like Kelsea's conviction to help her people. The events of this first book follow her on her journey to being crown queen and her first actions as queen. Although war hasn't started you can see it looming in the air and she's doing all she can to be ready for it.
Kelsea has a couple of companions to help her rule. Mainly she has Lazarus or the Mace, a fearsome warrior that everyone is afraid of. I love the Mace. He always has Kelsea's back and even when he's knocked down a peg he's still a very loyal friend. Another kind of anonymous companion is the Fetch, a very mysterious thief that wants the restoration of Tearling as much as Kelsea does. There is no romance in this book but the Fetch seems like the likely answer for the next couple of books. He's stolen thousands from the royalty and is as feared by everyone as the Mace is. He's not a noble thief but he seems to at least care that people are being treated like animals so he's okay in my book.
There are a lot of negative reviews for this book. I don't know what I missed - I really enjoyed reading this story and can't wait to see how it progresses. It is a long book but it's worth reading. Kelsea does comment that the men around her are handsome but I find nothing wrong with that. She's a girl who likes guys. I don't see the problem. There is one thing that bothers me. She is seen as plain with a little more weight on her than I guess is acceptable. She comments on her looks a little much. I can understand why she would but you've got millions of people to govern so I wish she would get over it. I wish she would be more confident in who she was. I do like she's considered "plain" though. Every other instance she'd be this gorgeous beauty that all the men would fall over. There's a lot more important stuff going on and her leadership is what matter the most.
Overall I loved diving into this fantasy world. The magic of the Tearling Sapphire provides great originality and such a fun and cool aspect to this story. I'm really excited to see where Johansen will take Kelsea on her battle for her land's freedom from tyranny.