Thursday, September 22, 2016

75:120 The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Book 1 of the Queen of the Tearling trilogy.  Kelsea has spent the first 19 years of her life in the care of a married couple whose job was to raise her to take the throne upon her coming of age.  Her mother died when Kelsea was young and her uncle has been the Regent ever since.  The country has been in despair almost her entire life as the Regent cares more about his comfort than the people and they are basically enslaved by a treaty to their neighbor, Mortmense, ruled by the Red Queen for the past 100 years. Now that Kelsea has reached her majority, the Queen's Guard has come to take her to be the Queen.  However, her uncle has been searching for her to kill her for her entire life and the odds are not in her favor of ever getting her crown, much less living long enough to do anything with it.  In spite of those odds, the Guards execute a plan and get her to the castle and a crown placed upon  her head. Her first act was to stop the tribute of thousands of people being sent to Mortmense as slaves every month and now she must try to prepare her country for an invasion from an insurmountable enemy that she has just kicked in the face.  To top it all off, she has enemies in her own country that would prefer things to go back to the way they were.

So where to start on my opinions of this book.  Hearing that Emma Watson had been cast as Kelsea and all the praise and good reviews as well as being a lover of fantasy in general made me extremely hopeful for the book.  Unfortunately, it did not live up to expectations.

First the bad.  Kelsea didn't read as fully believable.  She was isolated for 19 yrs but somehow knew how to read people completely but yet seemed to have no concept of decorum, palace management, diplomacy, history of her people, or a number of other things potential rulers are generally schooled in.  She goes back and forth between knowing and understanding tons of things seemingly instinctively and then having no clue about similar things.  She constantly bemoans the fact that she isn't pretty enough.  Her thoughts and moods swing wildly but yet manage to be somehow monotonous. Some of the other characters are a bit more balanced but none have much in the way of depth and there is definitely character growth lacking.  The villain is suitably mysterious but other than being incredibly cruel doesn't really seem to even know why she cares about taking over Kelsea's country.  When after almost 20 years she hasn't been able to find and kill Kelsea, she finally reveals that she has some sort of demon that is in charge of her and he doesn't want Kelsea harmed.  No reason given.  So why has this been a thing then?

The fact that this story is apparently set on Earth in the future but with a medieval feel with hints at some great catastrophe that has reduced technology backwards hundreds of years could be a set-up for something really interesting.  It's an interesting way of world building but I still found it jarring to hear references from nowhere to modern things.  It kind of brought me out of the world and the story that was being told.

For all that, I think there were some interesting things being hinted at and I hope that they start to come to light in the next book.  I think a better editor could have pulled this book together better and made it more cohesive.  It's a first book and I think it really shows in places.  Potential is there but execution lacks.  I have the second book in the series here so I'm going to give it a try and then decide if I care enough to finish the trilogy.

Page count: 434p/20,484p ytd/269,634p lifetime

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