Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Queen of the Tearling Erika JohansenKelsea Raleigh Glynn is 19 years old and her future is staring her in the face. Exiled as a child, Kelsea is leaving her home to travel to New London, where she will become Queen of the Tearling. Kelsea has always known this was her destiny, but it never seemed real until the Queen’s Guard shows up to escort her to her throne.

Kelsea has a fight ahead of her. Her uncle has been regent since the death of her mother, and she has heard of her uncle’s desire to remain in power. Feeling overwhelmed but resolute, Kelsea calls on all she has learned to win over the loyalty of her Guard to face the uncle that will try to kill her.

Before that meeting happens, Kelsea learns an awful secret about the sacrifice her mother made to keep the neighboring kingdom of Mortmense from overrunning the Tearling. Through shock and outrage, Kelsea comes into power, and uses the Tear sapphire in ways she could never have imagined from her exile. As she grows in her power so does the sapphire, transporting her through time into the life of another woman. As Lily, Kelsea learns some difficult lessons about the past and what led to the formation of the Tearling. The story of Lily, set in Kelsea’s past and our future, is an interesting counterpoint to the medieval fantasy tropes of Kelsea’s story. As the trilogy progresses we learn more about the Tearling and its founding as Kelsea enters the life of another young woman, Katie; an early resident of the Tearling working to create a community where people took care of each other and all were equal. This community, based on the premise that sharing would build a better world for all, is a dream shared by Lily, Katie and Kelsea, and the risks all three women take to make that dream a reality dominate the story.

Kelsea is a fully realized young woman, self-consciousness about her appearance, crushing on a rogue who kidnaps her during her journey to New London, giving in to her anger at her mother and the world while struggling with her new found knowledge and power. As she grows throughout the story there are many actions she takes which, while understandable, are unlikeable. The experiences she has through her travel into the past are also believable, and difficult at times, as Lily is an abused wife and Katie is trained to fight in a society that hoped never to need such skills. Kelsea’s relationship with the Queen of Mortmense is explored in greater detail in the second and third books, “The Invasion of the Tearling” and “The Fate of the Tearling”, and this complicated young woman learns to understand that the Red Queen is complicated too, and not necessarily the ultimate evil she had thought.

This trilogy is a complex, involving story sure to please readers of fantasy as well as keep them guessing.

Deana Cunningham is the Branch Manager at May Memorial Library. She can be reached at dcunningham@alamancelibraries.org.