Book Review: The Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen

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.

The Queen of the Tearling introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen.




First of all, to the shitstick in the PR department that labeled this the “The Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones”:

Second of all, FANTASY NOVEL FAIL.

Look, I’m a hardcore fantasy fan but I’m not a snob. High fantasy, light fantasy, urban fantasy, science fantasy, I’ll read it all. What I look for in the world an author builds, in the story that they tell, is creativity, believability when it comes to what they’ve created, accuracy, consistency and COMMON FUCKING SENSE. Because those are the building blocks for a good fantasy series.

I’m having a hard time believing that anyone that has ever read a fantasy novel was involved in the process of publishing this because it contains none of the above.

I knew by page 16 that this book was going to piss me off, let me show you why:

“Red hair was a recessive gene, and in the three centuries since the Crossing, it had bred slowly and steadily out of the population. Carlin had told Kelsea that some women, and even some men, liked to dye their hair red, since the rare commodity was always valuable. But after about an hour of sneaking looks at the guard, Kelsea became certain that she was looking at a true head of red hair. No dye was that good”

I believed that this was set in a medieval world because nothing in the blurb or the beginning led me to believe that it wasn’t. People still wield maces and ride horses for Christ’s sake, and there are NO modern conveniences. NONE. So how dafuq do they know about recessive genes?

And Kelsea, our MC, has had no one but a couple of old fogies for company for her entire goddamn life and has never been allowed off their property.


Therein lays one of the biggest problems with this novel. If your main character has only ever seen two people her entire life, how does she know anything about anybody else? Or about herself? For instance, she’s convinced that she’s “plain” because this one time, when she was twelve, she glimpsed her reflection in some water (her guardians didn’t have mirrors). She’s nineteen now, by the way.

That’s right. As if this trend of women having zero fucking self-confidence wasn’t already annoying enough, now we have a heroine that knows, SHE JUST KNOWS, that she’s ugly because she saw herself one time, seven years ago, in a murky fucking forest pool.

Let’s talk about consistency now, shall we? Bear in mind that the following quotes all revolve around the same group of men. The stoopid begins on what I like to call The Page of Doom, aka, page 16:

“Behind the redhead was a blond man, so extraordinarily good-looking that Kelsea was forced to sneak several looks at him…”


“…she wasn’t going to do any sort of serious thigh-stretching in front of these men. They were old, certainly, too old for Kelsea to find them attractive.”


“He was handsome, with dark hair and an open, good-natured face. But then again, they were all handsome…”


This group of men that Kelsea does-doesn’t-does find attractive are her royal guard. They’ve gathered her from her life of solitude and are delivering her to the throne. After all, she IS the queen (haha, good luck, Tearling, you’re all fucked). Almost as soon as they start their journey they realize that assassins are on their trail. Then they break camp for the night.

How this would play out if this were a successful fantasy novel:
· The guards set watches
· They create a perimeter
· They sleep near the horses
· They don’t build a fire
· They keep absolutely silent

How it plays out in this failtasy:
· The guards put up the queen’s tent and don’t guard it
· They build a roaring fire
· They get shitfaced
· They sing bawdy tunes at the top of their lungs

Yup, this is the royal fucking guard, folks. They’re allegedly the most highly trained soldiers in the kingdom. I’d hate to see what the common troops are like. Hope you never have to go to war because you’ll get fucking steamrolled if these fidiots are the best of the best.

This all happens by page 50 by the way, which is where I rage-quit. I had to read other reviews to learn that this isn’t actually a medieval alternate universe but that this is OUR FUCKING UNIVERSE and that this is set 300 years after an apocalypse. They even mention Harry Potter. FML.

So good luck if you read this, you’ll need it.

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