The Queen of the Tearling: Review

January 7, 2015 2014, 4.5 star books, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, fantasy, historical, Layla 76 ★★★★½

The Queen of the Tearling: ReviewThe Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Published by Harper Collins on July 8, 2014
Genres: adult, dystopian, fantasy, historical
Pages: 448 pages
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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four-half-stars
Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.

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.

Have you read The Queen of the Tearling yet?

If not: stop what you are doing immediately; do not pass Go; do not collect $200. Just go read The Queen of the Tearling.

You will not regret it.

I’m really bummed that I didn’t read it sooner. (And didn’t read it soon enough to count it among my 2014 favorites, because it definitely is, you guys.) It’s the sort of novel I’m predisposed to like because it features all of the following: lost princesses, a kingdom in turmoil, a tiny bit of romance, and ladies being badasses. And the underlying message is “this is why books are important, you guys.” So, this is all to say: if you like any of all of these things, please go read The Queen of the Tearling, and then join me in biting my nails, squealing like a ten year-old, and making grabby hands for the second book.

Before I get started, I want to mention that this book is adult fiction and not YA. So it might not be appropriate for some of our younger readers.

Here’s the premise: on her nineteenth birthday, Kelsea is taken from the only home and family she’s ever known. She’s the rightful Queen of the Tearling, but has been in hiding since she was a baby. She’s been raised and educated by her foster parents in almost total isolation; not only from other people, but from any real knowledge of both her past and the present fate of her kingdom. It’s time for her to return and reclaim her throne from her greedy uncle, restore order to the land, and protect her people from a neighboring kingdom, Mortmesne, and its queen, with whom they have a fragile and horrible peace.

But the journey to her throne is fraught with peril as Kelsea is a figure of interest to many – her uncle has hired assassins to take her out before she can be crowned, the eeeeevil Queen of Mortmesne is on the alert, and a mysterious intelligence network headed by a noble-ish thief, the Fetch, wants to assess Kelsea’s queenly potential before allowing her to reach the Keep. They have reason to be worried; although Kelsea doesn’t know it, the dead mother she’s idolized made an awful compromise with the Queen of Mortmesne that sends a set number of Tearling subjects a month to Mortmesne as tribute. In return, Mortmesne promises not to invade.

Anyway. Because Kelsea’s foster parents have raised her to be a just queen (thanks to an incredible library, because this book really wants you to know how much books matter), the Fetch and company recognize that Kelsea is just the kind of hero that Gotham deserves AS WELL AS the one it needs, okay?

So, to recap. There is intrigue: spies, murderers, and tricksy plots to dethrone Kelsea abound! There is romance (& just the right amount): Kelsea thinks the Fetch is super dreamy! There is badassery: View Spoiler ». And there is magic! It’s pretty much the perfect fantasy novel.

For those of you who like that sort of thing, I promise – this is the sort of thing you’ll like.

The two aspects of the book I loved most were Kelsea and the world-building. I found Kelsea to be a smart, capable, and strong-minded heroine — but also one who is really believable as a nineteen year-old. There’s so much real tension between her personal feelings and her desire to be a good ruler. For example – she’s attracted to the Fetch, even though she knows he’s basically a criminal; she’s hurt to discover that he thinks she’s plain (but recognizes she’s a badass anyway); and finally, she’s distraught when she finds out her mother wasn’t the queen she thought she was. But although she experiences personal hurt and betrayal, her first concern is always for her country. When she discovers the terms of the Mort Treaty, for instance, her first response is overwhelming loss for her constructed memory of her mother as a first-rate Queen; she feels like a fool. (Which is freaking heartbreaking as a reader, let me tell you. She’s been idealizing her dead mother for years). But Kelsea immediately moves beyond her feelings of personal loss and acts decisively to free her people from Mort Treaty.

If you need yet another reason to like her: Kelsea is ALSO a voracious reader who laments the lack of strong female heroines in literature. (There’s a wonderful scene where she’s searching for a good book for a teenage girl who lives in the palace, and she hands her The Hobbit so that she can eventually get to Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings.)

That brings me to my second favorite part of the book, and the part I’ve been thinking most about – the world-building. At first glance, the book seems like a history fantasy novel set somewhere in the medieval period. But it quickly becomes obvious (at first through small clues, & eventually with a longer, though still incomplete history) that the world Kelsea’s living in is our future. Much of the backstory has yet to be explained, but what we know is that there was this cataclysmic event – The Crossing – and it involved British and American people going somewhere – and en route, much was lost (human life! medical knowledge! other knowledge?). Books are consequently rare and undervalued in Kelsea’s world, but Kelsea’s been raised to value book-learning. (Go team, go!)

What I liked most about this: the novel plays with our expectations of what “the past” looks like (i.e., we’re lured into thinking that Kelsea’s present is somewhere in our past, because it looks the way we expect historical fantasy to look.) But we’re asked to confront that expectation and revise it fairly quickly; I really liked the sense of uncertainty I had while reading the novel about where and when it was set, because it forced me to think about what assumptions I make as a reader. That is to say, how are the ways in which I read historical fantasy different from how I read dystopian literature? What sorts of relationships do I form between my understanding of my own present and my understanding of Kelsea’s present, and how does that differ based on my perception of the novel’s genre? Are we being shown a past or a future? How / why does reading matter; what sorts of stories do we tell ourselves about the past; how do these stories shape our future? I liked the discomfort and uncertainty The Queen of the Tearling made me experience on that front, and I loved the novel’s emphasis on the importance of reading (in challenging how we as readers read the novel, and in emphasizing for Kelsea how important education, literacy, and accessible knowledge are in a healthy society).

So, long story short? Go read The Queen of the Tearling, you all. It’s wonderful. You won’t regret it.

If you’ve read it, what did you think?

layla signature teal

P.S. Wendy loved it, too!
 
 
 
 
 

76 Responses to “The Queen of the Tearling: Review”

  1. Sydney De Guire

    I’ve really been looking forward to this book. It’s great to see that it wasn’t a disappointment. :) I love this type of fantasy. Kidnapped Princesses, made up worlds. I Just finished The Princess in the Opal Crown and loved it so I’m looking forward to crossing this one off my TBR list. Your review was awesome.

  2. Alexa S.

    I’m so happy to hear that you loved The Queen of the Tearling! I loved it too, as evidenced by the fact that I devoured it in the course of two days, taking food and work breaks only. Seriously, I think Johansen has written something special here, with interesting complexity in the world and story and even main character Kelsea. Cannot wait to see where this story will go in the sequel!
    Alexa S. recently posted…We Can Work It Out – Elizabeth Eulberg

  3. Nicola

    I was actually kind of disappointed in this book, perhaps because I read so many glowing reviews before I picked it up. There were things I loved – Kelsea, book-learning, the mystery surrounding the Queen of Mortmesne – but to me the world-building didn’t feel rich and unusual, but kind of gimmicky, for lack of a better term. The world resembles your standard mediaeval fantasy world, being very patriarchal and feudalistic, but there’s no explanation for how we got from modern American and British society (sidenote: where are the Canadians? :P) to this backwards culture. I would expect the loss of technology and medicine to be accompanied by *some* backslides in terms of equality, but I felt like there was no exploration of how this future might differ from the past, so it read to me more like an attempt to show this world as different from other mediaeval fantasy without actually making a truly unique fantasy world. I hope I’m wrong about this, though, and that more will be revealed in future books that shows both how Kelsea’s world differs from standard mediaeval fantasyland and how our world turned into hers.

    • Layla

      Oh! I’m sorry. I hope that wasn’t too spoilery. It is in the future, but it’s something that you kind of have to figure out along the way because the setting does, at first, seem more properly in the past. This was my favorite aspect of the book by far; I can’t think of anything else like it that I’ve read recently. But I was super interested in how / why this happens over the course of the novel.

      Give it a go and see what you think!
      Layla recently posted…The Darkest Part of the Forest: Review

  4. J. Oh

    What a lovely review. I’m bumping this up on my to-read list, even though I usually don’t like adult fiction that much.

    • Layla

      Give it a try! See if you like it. It’s not as adult as, e.g., Game of Thrones is for a fantasy novel, and though it’s not YA, it has some thematic concerns that are similar, I think. (About growing up and growing into one’s role in a larger world; figuring out one’s relationship to one’s mentors and/or parental figures; learning how to behave justly and ethically.) It’s a great read. I hope you like it if / when you read it.
      Layla recently posted…The Darkest Part of the Forest: Review

      • J. Oh

        That sounds good to me. I’ve always wanted to try Game of Thrones, just because so many people I know love it, but I know I can trust my gut that it would be overwhelming for me. This book sounds more approachable, though. I’ve requested it from my library; can’t wait to read it :)

  5. Kate

    Oh man, I loved this book as well – and read it because of your review. I should just automatically read anything that you recommend because like or dislike, we always seem to be on the same page.

    I’m surprised that people think nothing happens in this book! I mean, she does a lot of bold and impressive things. She’s brave, thoughtful, smart, and so determined to be just. I loved Kelsea and can’t wait to see what she does next. I loved that we got to watch her thought process, as she would desperately try to come up with solutions to the many challenges facing her queenship (I don’t think that this is even a word) and her kingdom (queendom?). I’d sit there thinking, ‘what the heck would I do in her place…?’ and I’d come up with some weak answer. Then Kelsea would just blow me away with her ideas.

    The world-building was really well-done and gave me just enough to get an idea of what Tearling looks like, but has still left me eager to explore more. And the secondary characters were wonderful. I am particularly fond of Pen (and sort of what Kelsea to at least consider giving him a smooch – because I’d like to give Pen a smooch, so I’ll have to live vicariously through her). The Queen’s Guards were really well-developed and I liked that she had slightly different relationships with each of them. And we have so much to learn about the Fetch.

    Not a book for everyone, but a book for me, for sure! Can’t wait for the next book. The only good thing about taking so long to read this book is that I won’t have to wait quite as long for the next one.

    • Layla

      Haha, omg, yay! I’m so glad I could bring someone else to Queen of the Tearling! (Wendy is ultimately responsible for introducing me to it, so I’m happy to pass it on, like a good version of The Ring.)

      This can go both ways, then – if you find something you really like, you should let me know so I can read it, too. Find me on Twitter or GR or something, I am always looking for more books to add to my never-ending pile of things I want to read. But I’m happy to have recommended something you ended up enjoying, huzzah.

      Yeah, so for me, this book was chock-full of action (I can see how other readers might want more from the plot, but I am happy to read about someone thinking thoughts for pages on end). I was fascinated just to have a window into her thought process. (What is it like to go into the world when you’ve been hidden for years and are going to be a queen and have to figure out how to put what you’ve learned into practice?) And she was constantly learning more about her kingdom and incorporating that information into her plans for leadership! And she’s so idealistic! I WAS SO INTERESTED IN HER.

      I’m with you, I also thought that the secondary characters were really well-developed. I guess we’ll see what happens with Pen? Maybe make-outs! I love Lazarus, and want to see how their relationship develops, too. I was pretty comfortable with not shipping anyone (though I can see myself shipping the Fetch in the future) in this book; I love a good romance, but man, she is so busy being a ruler and catching traitors and figuring out how to deal with impending DOOM that I didn’t miss it.

      I can’t wait either. We can be anxious, sky-scanning hawks together.
      Layla recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

  6. Shannelle

    I’ve officially put it off for months now, and I’m promising myself to get it over with this week. The story’s okay, but the pace is so slooowwww that I just keep pushing it off. It doesn’t help that I skipped to the end, so I’ve spoiled myself. :/ But seriously, nothing interesting’s happening!
    Shannelle recently posted…My Frustrations with the Read More

    • Layla

      Yeah, I can totally understand how someone might feel that way. I am generally pretty okay with things not happening fast – or at all – one of my favorite books that I read last year was pretty skimpy on plot but I loooooooved it. I know I tend to care less about plot as a reader. That said, I know that this is not to everyone’s taste! So I can understand how you might find QotT to be pretty slow – and there’s lots of traveling! Sorry you’re not enjoying it very much.
      Layla recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

  7. Carina Olsen

    Sad face. I’m sad you loved this book Layla, lol :) Because I hated it. I hated it so much. Sigh. I won’t say any of the reasons, hih, just that it wasn’t for me at all :p But I do adore your review. <3 And I'm glad you didn't hate it, sort of, maybe, as hating books is kind of depressing ;p Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Review: The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

    • Layla

      Aw, it’s okay! Having a range of feelings about books is what makes discussing them so much fun. Can I ask what you didn’t like? (My feelings won’t be hurt; people have different tastes!) Glad you liked the review even if you didn’t care for the book. The Glass Arrow is one of the next books on my list, tho!
      Layla recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

      • Carina Olsen

        <3 Hugs. You are awesome :) There is just.. there isn't anything about this book that I enjoyed o.O Have tried not to think about it at all since reading it, hiih. But yeah. I didn't like the writing. I hated the main character. I found all the things to be silly. There was too much talk about rape and other things. Nothing made sense. It was boring and way too long :p and the romance annoyed me. Mostly I just didn't like the plot at all :\
        Carina Olsen recently posted…Review: The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

    • Layla

      Right? I totally hear you. I was surprised to find out, when I finished, that there existed people who did not love this book as much as I did. Because I loved it so much! It basically did all of the things I want books to do – have ladies doing awesome things, have interesting questions for me to think about, feature potential romance, be funny and clever and moving, etc.

      So glad to hear that you liked it too.
      Layla recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

  8. Pili

    YAAAAAAAAAY!! I’m now even happier than I asked for Tearling as one of my books won in a giveaway!! I remembered seeing it as one of Wendy’s faves of 2014 and I was still so intrigued about it even if I had read other reviews from bloggy friends that were not as positive… But your review, Layla? Your review has made me want to bloody well stalk my postwoman or even go to the central postal office and start helping them sort parcels to get mine sooner!!

    A strong heroine, something that is historical fiction + fantasy but with a touch of postapocalyptic?? And a character that loves books? It seriously IS Pili bait!!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #76!!

    • Layla

      Personally, I feel like you made a sound decision. Good decision, Pili! I applaud you! :) And I reaaaaaally hope you like Queen of the Tearling, whenver it makes its way to you. I seriously loved it so much. I know the negative reviews exist, but I don’t care! The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, and I’m just gonna keep on talking about how much I LOVE THIS BOOK.

      Stalk the post office? Offer to help sort parcels? Adopt a sneaky disguise and break in? Whatever it takes!

      IT IS PILI BAIT. It is also Layla bait. So I understand your feelings. If this book were in a trap in the woods, I would set off the trap with my grabby hands.
      Layla recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

    • Layla

      YOU MUST TRY IT. I mean, “must” is a strong word. But I think it’s a great book, especially if you like badass ladies and (in this book, at least) a very tiny helping of romance. (I suspect the romance will be more prominent in the next book, which I’m totes fine with – but here, it’s sort of “setting the stage for a future romance,” I think.)

      I can totally see why folks might think it’s historical fiction – the setting does at first seem like … medieval or early modern-ish fantasy. It’s not? But it seems like it. This was actually my favorite part of the book – trying to figure out what kind of book I was reading.

      Go find, go read!
      Layla recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

  9. Madiha@Symphony of Words

    OMG, this sounds like JUST THE THING I’VE BEEN WANTING TO READ! Mystery and fantasy are both genres I want to focus on more than romances this year, and TA DA, here pops Queen of Tearling. I’m so excited to read this,, because Layla, world building <3 And of course, I cannot resist the awesomeness of kings and queens. Democracy is boring, I say.

    Great review :)

    • Layla

      YAY THAT IS PERFECT. I think it’s a really wonderful fantasy novel (and it might even have a little bit of romance to tide you over)! Also, if you like are into thinking about how fantasy worlds are constructed, this one is very rich, IMO. There’s just so much going on, and the benefit of having the novel open with Kelsea’s journey to the Keep is that you get the opportunity to really see what the country is like, as Kelsea does. It’s wonderful.
      Layla recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

  10. Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

    I was really put off by the Goodreads and Amazon reviews, too – so much so that I decided not to buy it even though Amazon has the Kindle version on sale for $1.99. But your review and Wendy’s comments changed my mind (along with some of the other commenters.) And yay! it was still on sale! So it’s now in my Kindle, waiting (along with about 200 other books) for me to read it. :-)
    Lark @ The Bookwyrm’s Hoard recently posted…Teardrop Lane, by Emily March

    • Layla

      Haha, yeah, it seems like one of those books that people either love or hate. (I am on Team I LOVE IT pretty enthusiastically, though.) I’m happy that both Wendy and I were able to convince you to give it a try – I hope that you like it as much as we did! Be sure to let us know what you think about it when you get to it (and boy, do I understand the problem of having like 200 books that you want to read).
      Layla recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

  11. Kim

    Okay! I remembered what made me :\ initially. This in the book’s description put me off:

    “Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa.”

    I didn’t like the implication of “vain” as bad, and “plain and serious” as the good girl. Like “oh yes, she’s very good and not concerned with such silly things as her look.” I guess it was coming off to me as some sort of demonization of the feminine but I’m probably being ridiculous. It just rubbed me the wrong way when I read that I do recall.

    Aaaaaanyway, you make this sound amazing! :) I just want to cozy into the lush worldbuilding and enjoy the hell out of that library. Also MORE ROMANCE THAN THERE IS IN THE BOOK. More. Don’t you know how I love my handsome guard men?!? Is someone trying to make Fetch happen?

    • Wendy Darling

      I think most of that is marketing speak trying to appeal to fairy tale type tropes? The characters are much more nuanced than that, and I never would have simplified their relationship or personalities in that way. I doubt the author would have, either. She does have some pretty strong ideas about the way women are portrayed in SFF in this essay, which I found pretty interesting: http://www.buzzfeed.com/erikajohansen/all-shapes-and-sizes#.huWgkYlDg

      Although I am pretty sure, despite what is said there, Kelsea will have SOME form of relationship in future books. There are hints in the first book…I don’t think it’s just wishful thinking!

      You know we will be watching you. :P And I legit LOLd at your Mean Girls quote.

      • Kim

        Yeah I should probably just know better by now than to judge based on the book’s copy. Still relieved to hear about the nuance of the characters. And thanks for sharing that article. My reticence about this novel is pretty much gone now. Except I am sad to hear about the romance. I just love romance in my stories. :( I think after a hard day of Queening a queen deserves a nice and beautiful person to go home to!!! Although I agree, romance for romance sake where it doesn’t fit in a story is dumb.

        And you know I will be HIDING and never revealing when I’m reading this book. You’ll never know. mwahahahaa.
        Kim recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

    • Layla

      Yeah, I can see why that would bother you about the description; there’s also the tiniest whiff of, “But she’s not like all the other girls!” which is always the worst. I don’t actually think that the book is doing that, though, and I think both characters are more complicated than that. (Probably. IMO. I suspect there are other readings, however!)

      UM I LOVED IT AND YOU SHOULD READ IT. I don’t know that you’re going to love it. Not enough romance, I think? Maybe other reasons, too. But read anywayyyy, at some point in your life. MAKE FETCH HAPPEN.

      (I now wish that I had not edited out all of my “it’s never going to happen” jokes. Because it IS going to happen. I’m pretty sure. And oh man, if you like handsome guard men, there are a bunch in this book. If you like handsome rogues, there is also one of those, too.)
      Layla recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

      • Kim

        Arrrrrgh nooooo. The dreaded “Not like other girls.” Bah! But I just your judgment and Wendy’s infinitely and you both loved it. It’s gotta be goooooood.

        And I can totally enjoy books when there isn’t any romance! I just won’t love it *as much* as if there had been romance. Also, let’s be real. I can always just find some random people to ship if I have to. I will straight up do it. And I’m totally going to read it! Like, within the next couple of months! It’s for real going to happen but I’ll be hiding when I do. No pressure!

        Layla, all I want in life is a captain of the guard to come sweep me away. When I hear “captain of the guard” anywhere remotely related to a book I immediately seize upon that book with intense interest and some crazy eyes. BONUS: when they’re the totally stiff upper lip type whose stony exteriors slowly thaw THROUGH THE POWER OF LOVE.
        Kim recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

    • Kate

      The Guard Men! Yes, to this. I always think Queen or Princess/Secret Romance with Queen’s Guard is super swoony.. The Fetch – not sold yet, but maybe.

    • Layla

      YES IT IS SO WONDERFUL. What did you love best? I am still happily thinking of it.

      WHY did I not read it before now? Why, why, why. If anyone, out there in the universe, is experiencing hesitation – as I did – before The Queen of the Tearling – stop hesitating and go read it. That is my message to the universe because it needs to be said.
      Layla recently posted…The Queen of the Tearling: Review

      • Amanda P.

        I read it as an eARC before it was out, and at the time, there were a lot of negative reviews, which surprised me. I think part of that was because they thought it was marketed as YA, and it’s definitely not a YA book lol. My favorite part was probably Kelsea’s relationship with her guard and specifically Lazarus. I just love him with all my heart! I really like when he laughs at Kelsea, or just their all around relationship. It was my 2nd favorite read of the year, and I tell EVERYONE I know to read it!!! :)
        Amanda P. recently posted…Hello, Love: January Vol.1

        • Layla

          Yeah, I mean, I think I would have been put off by it as a young adult. (What is this talk of SEX and how can I make it STOP.)

          Oh man, her relationship with Lazarus is totally lovely. I’d like to know more of his backstory and get more insight into him as a character. The stuff that happens between them at the end – when she is having dreams and no one believes her – was so heartbreaking. Wah. I’m really interested in seeing how this relationship develops; it’s wonderful.

          & I know! I went to a friend’s house yesterday and picked it off her shelf and was like READ IT NOW OK.
          Layla recently posted…The Queen of the Tearling: Review

  12. Wendy Darling

    I AM SO PLEASED THAT YOU LOVED THIS. And relieved, hah.

    You got me thinking after our text convo about the lack of explanation about the catastrophic thing, and I like how you’ve talked about how what the author did challenges how we think about the past and future. I understood the criticisms from those who would’ve wanted to know more, but not having it didn’t hinder my enjoyment at all, as I’m confident that will be explored in the later books. SO excited for the next one! Keep us posted, assassin hawk!

    • bethany

      I liked it TOO!!! Wendy and I chatted briefly on Goodreads because I was so surprised by all the people who hated it — because after I read it, I had so much fun!

      I didn’t read as much into the past/future teases, but did notice some of the little clues that were being dropped… and am SUPER excited about the future books.

      I love all the awesome female heroine/assassin/worlds that are in our midst – Sarah J Maas, Robin LaFevers, thank you.
      bethany recently posted…Isla and the Happily Ever After

      • Wendy Darling

        III know! I went into this book very doubtfully because I’d seen the ratings from a few GoodReads friends, and as I was turning pages I kept thinking, WHEN DOES THIS GET BAD? IS IT GOING TO GET BAD? BECAUSE I LOVE IT. And it never happened, I thought it was awesome from start to finish. I’m so happy you enjoyed it, too! It IS so much fun!

        Wasn’t the Harry Potter reference neat? I got a little chuckle out of that.

        And yes, thank heaven for all these kickass girls we’ve been getting lately. It’s a good time to be a reader, and especially a fantasy reader. :)

        • bethany

          ahaha yes – I love when a book surprises me.

          Out of curiosity, when a book is in a series, do you tend to re-read previous books before going into the new installment or do you remember enough that you don’t have to? Sometimes I find that if I don’t skim or reread, I can’t remember clearly when it’s been a year(ish) between books!

          AND TOTALLY AGREE. So. Much. Fun. The past couple years have been AWESOME for the world of fantasy and going back, dystopia… sci-fi… etc.
          bethany recently posted…Isla and the Happily Ever After

          • Wendy Darling

            You know, with certain fantasy series, I would love to have the time to reread the previous installments before the new book comes out. I used to try to do this, but these days there just isn’t time. :( With something like TEARLING, I read it so long ago that I would probably have to skim through a bit at least, though we’ll have to see how that goes. I really appreciate the authors who are able to subtly give us a good refresher/bring us up to date on what’s happened before without using big infodumps.

            • bethany

              Ah, yeah… like I’m a book behind on Game of Thrones but the idea of trying to re-read ANY of them keeps me from even opening up the newest one! I guess thank goodness for the internet and wikis and such.

              Yeahhhhhh! It’s a weird balance because when I read a series all at once (like what I did for a lot of Cassandra Clare or Richelle Mead), I don’t love the tons of backstory and/or re-iterating what’s already happened, but then when i read them in-time with release, I’m so so thankful! I think it’s an author superpower to reacquaint you with teh world and characters without making it sound like “so here’s the recap from the last book…”

              I’ve only done a true reread once, and that was for HEIR OF FIRE — I read ASSASSIN’S BLADE, then TOG, then COM and man, I was SO glad that this time I could read HOF right away! Ha. That COM ending killlllls me even now, EVEN knowing what happens next! Ha.
              bethany recently posted…Isla and the Happily Ever After

              • Wendy Darling

                I hear Recaptains is also great–the helpfulness probably depends on how the recap is done (I used to read this movie spoiler site which was all over the place). I’ve only read the one Maggie Stiefvater did for THE DREAM THIEVES, which was awesome!

                Exactly–if you read books all in a row, the backstory can be too much, but again, sometimes authors can manage to do it without boring readers. The one I got tired of the most was the Chicagoland Vampires series. I LOVE it, and I loved it even after the big shocking thing that happens in book 4. But now it’s like book 9, and the books are short, and they come out every 6 months, and there is a huge cast of characters, and for some reason she always feels the need to use every single one in every book. So much of the first 100 pages or so of each one often feels like a waste of time. I love the characters and I definitely want to see what happens to them, but at this point I’m just going to wait until they’re done to continue on.

                Um sorry, I went off on a tangent. Some authors do the recap thing really well. It’s hard to do, though, so I am sympathetic to the difficulties.

                COM was rough. TAB is rough for me, too, and I knew what happened even before I read the book.

                • bethany

                  Recaptains looks awesome! I had never heard of it, so thank you.

                  Totally agree… there’s this funny scene in THE HUNDRED YEAR HOUSE where one of the characters is a ghostwriter for a teen series (that maybe was poking at The Babysitter’s Club?) and how if you read the series consistently, you just skipped reading chapter 2 because it was basically a recap of all the characters and backstory in EVERY BOOK, ha.

                  ACK yes… TAB — as soon as I started reading, every time Sam said or did anything I was like *hearbreak*
                  bethany recently posted…Isla and the Happily Ever After

      • Layla

        Right? I mean, I kind of understand why some folks don’t like it (maybe you don’t like reading about someone journeying IN CONSTANT PERIL to, like, be crowned queen – that’s fair, I hate reading about lots of things!) but my love for this book was so great that I would still recommend it whole-heartedly. And I didn’t know that so many people disliked it until I went searching for one-star reviews and was surprised to find that they existed.

        It is so fun!

        The past / future thing is what first captured my attention about the book, so it’s possible that I am overly focused on this and reading way too much into it. I accept this! Though I did, like Wendy, love the Rowling shout-outs, and the way the kids have to find a fair way to figure out who gets to read them first.

        Too true. There are so many good fantasy books with wonderful heroines right now.
        Layla recently posted…The Queen of the Tearling: Review

    • Layla

      I LOVED IT SO MUCH. I could have easily made this post twice as long; I didn’t focus at all on some of the smaller details that made this book such a wonderful read for me.

      The setting is still a thing I’m thinking about, and I’m interested in seeing where Johansen takes it (i.e., I’m almost happier knowing less rather than more at this point, because it allows me to imagine lots of nifty things. But I’m pretty confident / hopeful that it’ll be explained interestingly in the next books, too). But I’m still really intrigued by how (or whether) this novel asks us to think about our assumptions about genre; on the one hand, I’ve definitely taught students who are like, “fantasy and sci-fi are totally removed from the real world, Dune isn’t about, like, Arabs in spaaaaace or anything, it’s purely imaginative” but then you have George RR Martin defending the graphic violence of Game of Thrones by claiming that epic fantasy is founded in history. It’s such an interesting question to me, and I’m excited by what this novel’s doing with it.

      tl;dr I LOVE THIS BOOK WENDY (thanks for rec’ing it).

      (Also, thanks for adding a link to your review! I realized I hadn’t done that this afternoon but didn’t have my computer with me.)
      Layla recently posted…The Queen of the Tearling: Review

      • Wendy Darling

        Yay! yay yay yay!

        I always waffle over how much to write as well, but I think you’ve expressed plenty of sound reasoning and excitement! Further details can be left for readers to discover for themselves. :)

        Your genre debates remind me to nudge you again about THE WINNER’S CURSE, hah. That one feels very much like historical fantasy to me, although it has no magic and also is not really historical either. I have it shelved under historical fantasy anyway, since people looking for books like that will enjoy it, I think.

        I have not read GRRM, I think the books are too long and complicated for me. (Kate hated them and Kim loves them, so you can see my dilemma.) I also never finished the first season of the tv series, because it was so goddamned rapey. Our expensive box set is still sitting there accusingly on our sideboard after more than a year. I want to see the dragons, though!

        I’m so glad you enjoyed this. And noooo problem, I pimped myself out, hah.

        • Layla

          I know. I want to read The Winner’s Curse soon; it’s definitely in my top five to try to get through in the next few weeks. I have so many friends who love it.

          Eh, I got through book 3 of GRRM’s stuff and then stopped because I felt like I was just reading for plot, which is never my most favorite thing to do. I did try watching the first season of the TV series but couldn’t get past the first few episodes.
          Layla recently posted…The Stolen Moon: Review

  13. Kate @ Ex Libris

    I have this ARC in my ARC Cabinet of Doom where it has been since I got it at TLA a few years ago. Why haven’t I read it? Given your review, it sounds like something I would really love. On the February reading pile it goes!
    Kate @ Ex Libris recently posted…Sky Pirates By Liesel Schwarz

    • Layla

      I KNOW. I got it a few months ago too when the Kindle version went on sale, but just never felt like reading it, despite the fact that it’s lady-centered fantasy and that is MY JAM.

      Anyway, yes, bump it to the tippiest-tippy-top of your February reading pile; both Wendy and I loved it (and when Kim reads it she will love it too I BET) and if it sounds like something you would really love, I suspect you will really love it. How do you feel about journeys and adventure? There are journeys. And adventure. And Kelsea is wonderful.

      Go read, go read!
      Layla recently posted…The Queen of the Tearling: Review

  14. Amanda

    It sounds amazing. Kind of makes me think of Grave Mercy, which I LOVED. And hey check that out, it’s $1.99 for kindle. Sold!
    Amanda recently posted…new and aware

    • Layla

      ::whispers:: I liked it way more than I liked Grave Mercy (and I really liked Grave Mercy, too). It’s a really different book – Kelsea is way less focused on killinating – but they have totally awesome heroines in common (and also the whole, “what matters more? my feelings or MY COUNTRY?!” thing).

      And YES. Thanks for pointing this out. For less than two dollars, this can all be yours! ;)
      Layla recently posted…The Queen of the Tearling: Review

    • Layla

      Ooh, go read it. It just came out this past year, and there’s a sequel set for 2015. It’s very much worth picking up, IMO, and if you take a look at our 2014 favorites, you’ll see that it (totally deservedly, IMO) made Wendy’s list as well as the lists of many other readers, too.

      If you read it, let me know whether you liked it or not. I do think people tend to feel pretty strongly about this (both positively and negatively), so it’s worth reading, I think.
      Layla recently posted…The Queen of the Tearling: Review

  15. marjorie

    I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen such wildly divergent reviews of a novel. I may pick it up just to see why it made some people so rhapsodic and others so apeballs.

    • Layla

      Obviously, I fall in the rhapsodic camp; I loved it. It was one of those books that made me feel like I did about reading as a teenager. I couldn’t put it down and was totally engrossed in the narrative.

      I can see a little why some people hated it: for example, if you don’t like reading about journeys, the first … quarter? third? of the book is going to feel very, very slow to you. But I love that shit! It’s one of the things I really liked about Mortal Heart; I love the use of the journey as a way to think about setting, a character’s moral development, whatever. I love it.

      Give it a try. I’d be really, really interested in hearing what you think about it. Even if it makes you apeballs.
      Layla recently posted…The Queen of the Tearling: Review