Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!
Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Goodreads Description: An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.
Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.
Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.
Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”
Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.
Why it’s worth it: First off, I love the murky area of genre that this novel fits into. Is it YA? Is it not? How do you decide what’s YA? Because if you go by age of character, it is. If you go by writing style … maybe it isn’t? I’m not the biggest fan of high fantasy. I usually get bored.However, this included all the things that I love about high fantasy while keeping the action moving and not bogging down the paragraphs with unnecessary genealogies or something. When I tried to convince Michaela to read this in a 30 Seconds to Disagree video, this was one of my key points.
Secondly, I don’t often identify personally with many characters. I like a lot of characters and want to be my friend, but I don’t often read a character and think “that could be me!” The last time was Hermione. However, with Kelsea, I got that sense again. She REALLY is unprepared to be queen, and she has a temper problem that leaves her flailing. She tries so hard to do the queen thing right, but she doesn’t always succeed. She has body issues. She likes books. Watching her grow just over the course of the first book was amazing, and I came to absolutely love her.
Actually, great cast of characters all around. There were so many people with in-depth quirks and characterization that I liked when they were on screen. Even the “Evil Queen” gets to a point where you wonder just how much more there is to her than her “evilness.”
The setting is weird as all get out, especially considering the high fantasy vibe, because I guess technically it’s also dystopian? It’s weird, and it only gets weirder in the second book–and I like that. It’s not your typical Tolkien-esque fantasy world, and it opens up new spaces to think about. In the Drunk Book Club episode we did on this book, this was a point of contention, but I still think it’s cool.
I think the whole thing is cool. And so does Emma Watson, by the way. She’s making this book into a movie!
Read it if you’re looking for: strong female characters, high fantasy that won’t put you to sleep, strong cast of characters, interesting world building, believable teenage queen, action, adventure, magic, books without romance