Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Her throne awaits . . . if she can live long enough to take it.

It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They’d come to escort her back to the place of her birth – and to ensure she survives long enough to be able to take possession of what is rightfully hers.

But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders. Unlike many nineteen-year-olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and dangerous.

Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known . . . or be dead within the week.

Combining thrilling adventure and action, dark magic, mystery and romance, The Queen of the Tearling is the debut of a born storyteller blessed with a startling imagination.


Song For This Book: Survivor by Destiny’s Child
Why? If Kelsea isn’t a survivor, I don’t know what is.


This book has been sitting on my shelf for over a year now, and I just kept not picking it up. I’d heard it was going to be a movie, and star Emma Watson, and even that didn’t convince me to read it. But for some reason, it caught my attention recently and decided to pick it up.

And when all was said and done, it wasn’t that bad. As far as fantasies go, it was fairly middle of the road, with some really great stuff and some I wasn’t the biggest fan of. I am almost one hundred percent sure that this is going to be a brilliant movie, and could easily picture how they’d put it together as I read. I know I’m not supposed to say stuff like this as a read, but I’m fairly certain that this story is going to be better as a movie than it is as a book.

The one thing that struck me about this book was that it wasn’t exactly fantasy. It was, I guess, technically. There was magic and many other features of epic fantasies. But it’s also set in a futuristic version of our world, which in my mind, makes it a dystopian. So maybe half fantasy and half science fiction would be a better categorization for this one?

I should take a minute to say that this is not a YA book. It feels like one of those books that get tucked into YA fantasy so that it sells better. But I definitely wouldn’t put this in the hands of a junior high student. Maybe a mature high schooler. But there is a good bit of talk of violence, rape, and other such topics that we don’t usually see in such a context in YA, so that’s something worth being aware of.

The Good Points of The Queen of the Tearling:

The characters in this book are so amazing. I especially love Kelsea and how she remains her own person, despite her desperate desire to know about her family and her history. She has some of the best lines in this book, and she’s one of those characters that you know are going to be amazing role models. The other characters in the story are fantastic as well, so much personality and development.

The world building in this is brilliant. As mentioned, it’s not really a fantasy setting so much as a dystopian, but it definitely feels like a fantasy world. The Tearling and its neighbours are well thought out and their history being intact is obvious from the first page. This is the standard we should set our world building by.

This is definitely a first book in a series, because you get tonnes of information without a huge amount of stuff actually happening. There are big events that take place, but you’ll definitely leave this feeling like you didn’t get the full book. However, if you’re like me and enjoy a good slow build, this book is pretty satisfying, and it makes you itch to get your hands on the next one. It gives you just enough to get you hooked and then leaves you hanging.

The Downsides of The Queen of the Tearling:

This book is slow as cold molasses. It’s a lot of information, and it’s obviously building up to something, but it talks forever to get anywhere. It’s a lot of talking and long journeys through dull areas, and the first half of the book is a bit of a struggle. It doesn’t help that the politics of the Tearling are a huge part of this book, which means tonnes of back story.

For all the talking and dragging, I wanted more information than I was given. What’s the Red Queen’s deal? What’s with Kelsea’s necklaces? Who is her father? Why did we go into the future and then revert to medieval times? I’m sure this stuff will all come up in the future books, but even so. I like a good slow burn, but a little more information would be nice.

The setting is kind of confusing. I loved the world building, but I felt like I didn’t have enough back story to really get it. It’s future, but like the past? You can’t just give me that and leave it there. It hurts my brain.

All in all, I did enjoy The Queen of the Tearling, and I am definitely curious to see what the next book brings to the table. There some amazing characters and some confusing but brilliant world building in this book that will get you hooked easily. If you like slow burn books, political fantasy, and strong female characters, you’ll likely love The Queen of the Tearling.

Find The Queen of the Tearling on Book Depository.

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8 thoughts on “Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

  1. I really need to read this and get it over with already. I’m pretty sure this has been on my bookshelf at home for like a year and a half. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews and I think that’s why I’ve been hesitant to pick it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think my feelings pretty much mirrored yours when I first read this one. Especially all the questions that sprung in my mind.
    Everything is more or less explained in the second book, though, and I’m sure it will all tie end nicely in the third (which I have yet to read).
    I did find this an odd book, because of the fantasy/dystopian aspect. I think it was the first book I’d read of the genre and I was unsure whether I liked it or not.
    I really did love Kelsey and all the other characters (they get even better) but yeah, this series is slow as hell. I would definitely classify it as New Adult, at best, especially because of what goes on in the second book. The story gets much, much darker.
    Fantastic review, Hilary! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was the last book I read. I honestly had a such a hard time figuring out weather or not I liked the book or not. It felt so slow like the book had no plot, but I loved Kelsea. It almost felt like a book that wouldn’t feel good as a stand alone book since it took so long to really turn into anything. It is hard to read a book where it takes a long time to feel like anything really happened: you know what I mean?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I started reading summer break books on May 13th and still currently on summer break and reading my ninth book-that is a lot of summer reading.

        Queen of the Tearling probably felt like the longest and slowest book I read out of all the books I read. I read four fantasy books total and the other three fantasy book I enjoyed more

        Liked by 1 person

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