The Invasion of the Tearling: Review

May 27, 2015 2015, 4 star books, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, fantasy, Layla, sci fi or futuristic 21 ★★★★

The Invasion of the Tearling: ReviewThe Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #2
Published by Harper Collins on June 9, 2015
Genres: dystopian, fantasy
Pages: 480 pages
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

The Invasion of the Tearling is not the book The Queen of the Tearling was for me. (This is to say that I was not excitedly texting everyone I knew at 4 a.m. telling them to GO READ THIS BOOK.) In part, this is because The Invasion of the Tearling is a much more ambitious, a much darker, and a much harder book to read than its predecessor.

One of the criticisms I remember seeing quite a bit around the interwebz for The Queen of the Tearling was the lack of clarity around The Tearling’s backstory. “What is this crazy dystopian medieval fantasy land and why are we given very little information about how it came into being?” For those of you who had those feels, let me tell you that a good 50% of this book is dedicated to answering precisely those questions.

The Invasion of the Tearling alternates between two main narratives. There’s Kelsea, whom we know and love, who is trying to figure out how to repel the Mort forces from the Tearling and save as many Tear lives as possible in the process. On the other side of things (and by “things” I mean SPACE AND TIME), there’s Lily, an upper-class pre-Crossing woman living in super dystopian 21st century America. Kelsea keeps getting pulled – seemingly against her will – into Lily’s mind, and in so doing, witnesses the beginnings of the world that she herself lives in many centuries later. Kelsea is dealing with quite a lot (including but not limited to an invasion, the strange powers of her sapphires, dark magic, executions, and puberty) and consequently tries to search for answers to her current problems in Lily’s timeline.

This, spoiler alert, is the part of the story that didn’t make as much sense to me. While it was useful and interesting to know more about the pre-Crossing world – because I had approximately 101 questions about it – I wasn’t quite sure what bearing Lily’s story had on Kelsea’s in the text, i.e, what Kelsea was supposed to take away from this experience. We keep hearing from Kelsea about how much studying the past matters and how understanding the past gives you a roadmap for the future – a sentiment I am 100% on-board with, btw, and while knowing that the past matters does help her deal with the Red Queen, I wasn’t sure what knowing more about pre-Crossing America actually did for Kelsea. View Spoiler » What does the past teach her? Does it … teach her that it’s impossible to not compromise her ideals? that no one, even awesome utopian communities, can keep their hands clean? (Other folks who have read this, feel free to help me out.)

That said, I always love reading dystopian backstories, so I was glad that this one was included, although I did have some problems with it. Lily’s narrative is really interesting and really well-developed, although my God it is horrifying. (There’s pretty awful social stratification and oh hey, women are also property, and View Spoiler ») And while it explains a lot about the origins of the Tearling, there’s a lot it leaves unanswered as well. Partially for narrative reasons, I’m sure, but still … I had a lot of questions. View Spoiler » And the pre-Crossing America narrative also becomes a combination of dystopia/fantasy that didn’t wholly work for me? It’s so grim, I almost can’t believe in some of the fantasy elements that are in play. What I’m saying is, it’s not an easy story to read. And the same is true for Kelsea in this book as well.

Kelsea’s got quite a lot going on in The Invasion of the Tearling, as I mentioned above. In some ways, I felt like Lily’s narrative robbed me of a better focus on Kelsea’s story (and also interrupted the pacing of that story). I wanted more room in the text for Kelsea, especially because she’s dealing with the Mort Queen’s invasion, her sapphires (which keep yanking her back into the past), creepy dudes showing up in her fireplace, and her own feelings and darker temptations. In this book, Kelsea really explores her dark side – this is the part of the fantasy book where the heroine is tempted by their own capacity for seemingly limitless power! i.e., instead of a Dark Lord you would have a Queen! Not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! And figuring out what she can and cannot control is one of Kelsea’s biggest struggles in this book.

There’s also this interesting tension between Kelsea’s relationship to the past and future. (While I’m not sure what she *learns* from the pre-Crossing backstory, the past as a symbol is still really important in the text.) We’ve seen a little bit about Kelsea’s troubled relationship to the past through her rejection of (/downright horror for) everything her mother stands for; she doesn’t want to repeat her mother’s mistakes, but in this book, she gains more understanding of her mother’s situation (and has to seriously think about to what extent she can let her resentment of her mother guide her actions). In addition to her mother, Kelsea’s linked to another woman  – the Mort Queen – and another question Kelsea has to answer is whether she’ll repeat the Mort Queen’s mistakes as well and let her future follow the course of the Mort Queen’s past.

While I loved Kelsea’s story, I did have some problems with it. As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t quite enough space in the book to do it all justice. I felt like I didn’t understand why Kelsea was choosing some of her choices, if you will. View Spoiler » At another moment in the text, she does things that other folks have *explicitly warned her against* and bah, I felt confusion in my heart and soul. Finally, one of the things I loved about Kelsea in the last book was that she was not stunningly beautiful, and this undergoes some changes in this book (for reasons that make sense in the text – View Spoiler » but nonetheless, I was bummed. To be fair, though, Kelsea doesn’t seem to be comfortable with the changes, even if it’s implied that she wants them on some level.)

So. If you read and liked The Queen of the Tearling, you should absolutely read this. If you haven’t read The Queen of the Tearling, you should read that first, because that book is the bomb.

While I didn’t love this book as much as the first, I did still really enjoy learning more about the world and it’s made me even more eager for the next in the series. Also, there are SNAKES IN PARACHUTES. Have you read this one yet? If so, what’d you think?

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

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P.S. Kim and I are going to be at BEA from Wednesday through Saturday, and you should totally come say hi if you see us!

21 Responses to “The Invasion of the Tearling: Review”

  1. Audrey

    I finally got my hands on these two books.

    In answer to the Crossing and seeing Lily’s world..

    I think it’s a warning. In the 2nd book, Kelsea is more aware of her womanhood, marriage, having an heir or two. It’s seeing how the women are treated no differently in Lily’s world, the future. That Kelsea may not have successfully created a Better World, eradicated abuse or that Frewell Act. Or, that maybe Kelsea may have fought for what is good but is not enough, that it’s going to take awhile, that there’s a long way to go to repair the damages.

    How do we compare it to the world that we know now? There are still women who are abused, there are men who thinks like Jonathan, the High Priest, that there are women who put value in their looks, their power in the expense of the other women.

    When Lily encountered William Tear, it tells me that the Better World is a work in progress. That people need to constantly work against evil deeds. To believe that there is a Better World. That maybe when Kelsea sees it, despite the many obstacles she encountered in her court, that she continue to fight for her Kingdom. That us, the readers of the book, the girls, the women who read this book, be like a Kelsea.

    I don’t know but I’m only 38% into the book. I want to get into the invasion part, the action part. Yes, I agree, it’s not as exciting at the first book. I feel the process towards the invasion part of the book is a drag.

  2. Karman

    It was so nice to read a review that wasn’t the angry ranting found in the goodreads comment section.

    I completely agree with you about kelsea’s appearance changing, I understand why its happening but it did bum me out as well.

    On another note, what are your thoughts on Kelsea’s paternity? It keeps coming up and its driving me crazy!

  3. Bethany

    Finally got my hands on a copy and devoured it today, and I immediately favorite-shelfed it, and 5 stars, if only because it really surprised me in big ways, which I don’t think happens very often, especially in a book 2!


    Totally agree, though, with a lot of your comments in that it feels like a lot wasn’t fully explained or resolved, and I’m assuming it was intentional, like how book 1 didn’t explain everything we wanted about the world either.

    Also agree that this book was SO much darker, particularly Lily’s scenes, with that horrible Greg. He makes my blood curdle and my insides squeam, as did Father Anders.

    But SO, SO many unresolved questions that I’m trusting will be addressed, though they plague me now, like where on Tearling is Father Tyler??? I incorrectly assumed he’d go back to Mace but no… and as you mentioned, the ties between Lily/Kelsea aren’t fully fleshed out… what and how the sapphires work, not to mention wanting desperately to understand the strange relationships between Finn and the Fetch and that whole backstory, which I’m suspecting will mean the next book will have dual narratives too, for better or worse.

    And on a lighter note, I cannot WAIT to meet Maggie!

    (and one last PS, doesn’t this series remind you of TOG?? Is it just me?… Will this be 6 books too??)
    Bethany recently posted…Kissing in America

  4. Alexa S.

    I love how you went into so much detail in your review, Layla! And I definitely agree about wishing there were more chapters revolving solely around Kelsea and her logic behind what she chose to do. I did like meeting Lily and learning about the past though! And I feel like we’ll get a satisfying explanation of everything in the third (I HOPE SO ANYWAY).
    Alexa S. recently posted…The Lexie Project: On BFFs

  5. Alyssa Susanna (The Eater of Books!)

    I liked this book a lot! Darker indeed! I rather like what Johansen is doing with Kelsea’s character! She’s growing into herself and her power, and it may or may not be a good thing. I can see what you’re saying about some of her decisions – she’s matured, but at the same time, she needs to mature more? I can’t wait to read the next book!

    Anyway. I’m so happy to see that you enjoyed this one too, Layla! I haven’t seen too many other reviews for this book so I’m pretty pleased to see your reaction was quite similar to mine :)

    Excellent review!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!
    Alyssa Susanna (The Eater of Books!) recently posted…Review: Resonance by Erica O’Rourke

  6. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    I have to agree that I really loved this one but I’m still trying to make sense of some things, not to mention wrap my mind around the world building that happened here! Now it is a mix of fantasy + dystopia + science fiction + extra historical fantasy sort of a thing??

    And I agree, the physical change that Kelsea undergoes really didn’t settle too well with me, and I’m hoping all the double narrative and the changes will make more change in book 3, because so far I still feel we haven’t got the full story or how it intertwines together really…
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Friday Reads: ARC Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik!!!

  7. Erin

    This sounds great! I read The Queen of the Tearling and had some issues with how little questions were answered and the pacing. Not to mention how the Crossing seemed a bit unnecessary for the story line… I’m kind of miffed about Kelsea suddenly becoming beautiful, too. Ah, well, I’m still excited to read this sequel. I do prefer books with darker tones, so I’m looking forward to that, but I am not sure how I feel about there being two perspectives. I’ll either love it or hate it because it interrupts Kelsea’s story.
    Erin recently posted…Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

    • Layla

      Wellllllll, I had mixed feelings about it, because it does interrupt Kelsea’s story and I’m not entirely sure why it’s there for *her* (I know why it’s there for us, but I don’t know what knowing this story does for Kelsea). Also it screwed with the pacing for me!

      The backstory does make the Crossing make more sense though and help you learn a little more about what the Tearling is like? Still, I wish it had been integrated into the narrative differently.

      You should still be excited to read it? It was still fun! Let me know what you think of it when you do.
      Layla recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

      • Erin

        I guess I’ll see if I hate it or not when I finally read this book. It most likely will, but you never know. For some reason, I find that a lot of high fantasy books have pacing issues. Odd. Although I liked the story of the Crossing, it just felt like it didn’t have a specific point. You’re right, it should have bee integrated into the narrative in a better way. I’m definitely excited to read it still and will let you know when I am done! PS: Oh, yeah, that whole suddenly being gorgeous will probably make me frustrated, even with the context. Oh well, I guess, no book is perfect.
        Erin recently posted…The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

  8. Alie Davis

    OK, so I just started reading the first one. Do you pronounce Tearling like the tear in teardrop or “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART LISA!”? I really want to know. It’s driving me crazy that I don’t.
    Alie Davis recently posted…Introductions Are In Order

  9. Carina Olsen

    Stunning review Layla. <3 I didn't fully read it, hih, because I hated hated hated book one :( Worst book I have read, lol. So I'm not reading this one, sadly. I wish I could have loved it.. but yeah. Not for me :( But I'm thrilled you weren't disappointed by it :D Thank you for sharing your thoughts about it sweet girl. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Cover Reveal: The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows

    • Layla

      Haha, that sounds like an excellent reason for you to stay away from The Invasion of the Tearling, then! I really loved the first book and still very much enjoyed this one! Not disappointed by it at all, yayyyy, since that is not always the case with sequels.

      PS. I picked up Illuminae at BEA and am so excited to read it! I know how much you loved it! :)
      Layla recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  10. Hannah

    I really enjoyed this one – actually more than the first – even though it did feel like two separate stories being told. Also, it really irked me that Kelsey grew thinner and prettier in this one. Heaven forbid our MC remains plain and chubby. But I certainly enjoyed the plot developments, as dark as they were.
    Hannah recently posted…Review: Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

    • Layla

      Yaaaaay. I liked it too, just less than the first one. But I’m glad that you really enjoyed it! For me, the disjunct between the two stories (I get *why* you’re giving me this backstory, author, but I’m not clear on what it does or means for Kelsea to know this) was somewhat confusing – though it was interesting information to have, anyway.

      And yeah, I kind of wanted our MC to stay the same physically. I’ll be interested to see where that particular development goes, and it made sense in the context of the story, but I still wasn’t super into it. I hope Kelsea realizes that she was awesome-sauce and a total badass before and that the damage is undone.
      Layla recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  11. J. Oh

    Haven’t read this yet. I wasn’t totally wowed by The Queen of the Tearling, although I liked it more than most adult books I read. When I finished it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue, though I have a faint glimmer of curiosity about it. If this is darker than the first, it’s probably not going to be my jam… but I might give it a try anyway. Thank you for the detailed review :)

    • Layla

      If you’re curious about it, maybe pick it up? Finding out what was behind the world we see in the first book was kind of interesting (even if I had some qualms about how that particular narrative worked with Kelsea’s story, it was still really neat information to have, especially because there’s so little of it in the first book).

      It is definitely darker than the first book though. Kelsea is dealing with a lot – and, like, among those things is the lure of power and eeeevil. Kind of. It’s not as if the first didn’t have a lot of random violence and cruelty, but those things are even more present here, I think.
      Layla recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway

  12. kindlemom1

    I love that the world was detailed better in this and that it had a darker but slower feel to it. I love all those questions being answered but I can see at the same time, why it makes it a harder read to love.
    Wonderful review!
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    • Layla

      I still loved it, just not as much as the first. It’s in part because bouncing back and forth between these two narratives really messed with the energy of the narrative? Like, I felt distracted from what was going on with Kelsea, and I wasn’t entirely sure why the second narrative was so prominent (even as cool as it was to know what had happened).
      Layla recently posted…Poison is Not Polite: exclusive cover reveal + giveaway