book review

The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen || Book Review


Remember when I said I wanted to blog more in the New Year and then just didn’t? Oops. This is a rather recurring story isn’t it? Well i’m back (back again) with another book blog. This year is crazy, lot’s of things have gone a little wrong, as always I have minus money in the bank (hello overspending) but at least I have books and Kanye West to keep me going (listening to Pablo right now)

So, onto the review…

Queen of the tearling

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★

The Blurb 

It was her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. 

They came to escort her back to the place of her birth – and to ensure she survives long enough 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 most nineteen-year-olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and very dangerous. 

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


So, I actually finished this book around 1-2 weeks ago now, and it isn’t exactly fresh in my memory, but it was memorable enough that I have formed an opinion on it enough to want to review it.

The novel opens with an exceptionally strong female character (yay feminism!!) who was removed from her mother (her father unknown) for her protection as a child. Her terribly selfish and incompetent uncle has been ruling the kingdom since her mother died, and it’s in a pretty sorry state. Set in the future (there are references to what used to be Europe) but with a contrasting throwback to medieval times noted through hand to hand combat and long floating dresses. As with any young adult novel set in some form of kingdom, poverty and corruption within the upper classes are prevalent in the novel, but Kelsea has led a shaded life under her carers Barty and Carlin. And now, Kelsea is tasked with taking over the corrupt kingdom that is currently ruled by her selfish uncle who is more interested in finery for himself than caring for the starving children within his kingdom, and closer to The Red Queen, the kingdom’s enemy as it is later revealed, than he has ever been to his own family.

The novel opens with Kelsea’s journey from her safe place to the kingdom following her nineteenth birthday (making her old enough to rule the kingdom). We’re introduced to some guards who protected her mother, and some younger ones, and as typical in this genre of YA novel one of them, The Mace, takes on a fatherly role.

On her journey to the corrupt kingdom of The Tear there is certainly a lot of action which is good to see so early on in a novel – one of my biggest frustrations is slow starting literature! There’s assassination attempts, dangerous followers and a devilishly handsome rogue who, whilst an outlaw, is also prone to scaring Kelsea’s uncle and threatening his life due to the corruption he identifies within the kingdom. He’s the good-guy-thief – the Robin Hood of the story, if you will, and clearly the love interest in the novel. He goes by the name ‘The Fetch’, and I am a sucker for the bad boy in a novel so I took a liking to him. He typically hides his face, but to Kelsea he parades around unmasked – after seemingly threatening her life.

One of the most important images of corruption in the novel is the completely legal and endorsed people trafficking of men, women and children to Mortmesne, the kingdom of The Red Queen. Kelsea’s uncle and his corrupt guards and high class citizens set up a deal with The Red Queen in order to keep peace – these people are sent as tributes to satisfy her and supposedly prevent all out war. The nobel and rich families that inhabit the kings court are exempt from this experience.

Kelsea’s first action as she enters her kingdom is to stop the latest shipment which is being loaded as she approaches the castle. A minute image present until this point in the novel has been a small gem on a necklace that Kelsea wears around her neck. As she takes charge of the situation and demands her subjects and guards listen to her and stop the madness, the sapphire glows startlingly bright, blinding those around her. According to legend, this gem is one of the indicators that Kelsea is who she says she is – she has been instructed to never take it off. It has a sister gem, currently with her fancy-man, The Fetch, who has promised to return it to her once she proves herself worthy. The gems clearly have powers and these are shown to progress with Kelsea in the novel, to the extent that she causes a storm to protect her citizens from being ravaged by a fire. I think this is certainly an interesting symbol – it hasn’t been fully explained within this installment, and I’m curious to find out what the exact connection is.

Outside of this magic, Kelsea is shown to have strong feminist morals from the beginning which is something I consider incredibly important for this genre of novel and the audience it appeals to. Kelsea protects and takes under her wing abused women, encouraging them to make their own choices in her safety. The strongest symbol of this is Marguerite – a ‘gift’ to the former Regent from The Red Queen – she is made to sit next to the throne with a collar and chain around her neck and she is used as a sex toy.  Kelsea frees her from her chains and allows her to make a choice about what she wants to do with her life. She is loyal to Kelsea. This is clearly a symbol of feminine empowerment and how fellow women can remove the oppression that females experience at the hands of powerful men.

The novel highlights her inexperience and childish nature, but also shows that Kelsea has a strong will and knows right from wrong. This novel is the beginning of Kelsea’s overhaul of corruption as she focuses her attention on the poor, on the women oppressed by violent husbands and on the children of her kingdom.

I’m always excited for a strong willed female character in a novel, and this series doesn’t look to disappoint. There were moments of tension and violence, as well of moments of Kelsea clearly growing as a character. I found this novel interesting, not on-the-edge-of-my-seat interesting, but a solid basis for a continued story/series, which this book coincidentally is, with 2 other parts already published. I do plan on picking up the next in the series, and potentially the third, but maybe not quite yet.


It’s certainly a promising start to a series, and definitely worth picking up. I recall this novel being highly rated and raved about and I would argue too much so in my opinion. I have a good feeling about the rest of the series and, if you enjoy a dystopian future/past novel, I would recommend.


As always

Write you soon,








2 thoughts on “The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen || Book Review

  1. Excellent review! I’ve heard about this book–and even seen people hate on it–but this is definitely the first time I actually know what the book is about (thanks to your review!). I love the theme of corruption being explored and those hints to feminine empowerment sounds subtle and fascinating. Hopefully book 2 and 3 will blow your mind away! 😉


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