The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
I have been reading and reviewing books for nigh on seven years now, and in that time I believe I have noticed a creeping trend migrating from the world of comic books, infiltrating the world of genre literature. No longer is a book written solely for the purpose of entertaining a hoped-for reader, rather, some authors view the book-stage of their stories as simply a convenient stepping stone towards the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and big-budget movie deals.
The first I heard of Erika Johansen’s ‘The Queen of the Tearling’ was news that Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) was championing the cause of a movie based on the novel. She will not only star as the main character in the movie, but she is taking on the responsibility as one of the producers for the film as well.
Understandably, given my love of all things Emma Watson, I wanted to know more about this book she so loved. The blurb seemed interesting enough, and while I was a little nervous of finding myself reading yet another ‘Hunger Games’/’Twilight’/’The Bone Season’, I wanted to make the decision for myself.
Sadly, I found myself working very hard to keep reading this book, and by the end I was left disappointed – as if I hadn’t actually had the opportunity to read a new book, but rather just the screenplay for an upcoming movie, with all the plot holes and two-dimensional characterisations you’d expect.
To be clear, I think that The Queen of the Tearling is going to make a terrific movie! It has everything you’d want for a teen-drama-fantasy: Nineteen year old girl is the long-hidden queen; She has no experience of the wider world, and falls inexplicably for the obviously dark and brooding criminal; She makes decisions based almost entirely from her heart, and only seems to be cross-examined well after such opinions would have been useful; She’s ‘plain’ looking, but kicks ass!
But as a book, there is much missing. Character development is relatively non-existent, and I’m left feeling as if I should have been rooting for the main character, but without any reason why. Everything felt very as-expected, with very little in the way of twists and turns to keep the reader interested beyond the next chapter. And when something couldn’t be legitimately told from the main-characters point of view, Johansen just skips to someone else for a few moments, lazily filling in information that will be needed to understand the protagonist’s later events.
Robin Hobb is the master of telling a story from only one characters point of view, without having to resort to spur-of-the-moment POV changes to fill in the story. The answer is not to avoid POV swaps, but rather to either commit to them or not – you can’t just dangle in the middle.
There are genuinely interesting plot-points at work here, but in almost every instance they are executed with a somewhat lack-lustre feel – as if hoping an actor will be able to convey the relevant emotions. The trope of the long-hidden queen is dealt with well, in a way that exceeds the written pitch. Her looks are plain, and remain so throughout the book – a genuine surprise, as I was waiting for someone to take her glasses off (ok, she doesn’t wear glasses), and toss her hair about and lo and behold!
The references to our culture are disconcerting without any context as to why Lord of the Rings or Rowling should exist in this narrative, and by the end we are no closer to understanding the veiled hints to America and Europe. Where does this story take place? What’s the history? Are the references to Earth names and places relevant?
In the end, I wouldn’t steer someone away from reading The Queen of the Tearling if the blurb catches your fancy (or, if you’re like me, you have an unresolved crush on Emma Watson), but I’m not going to go out of my way to secure copies for you either. In the end, it was a mediocre book that I’m glad to have read, and glad to have put behind me.
This The Queen of the Tearling book review was written by Joshua S Hill
A video book review by WordsAndOtherGoodIdeas
This is a remarkable fantasy novel, the first in a planned trilogy, which deals with the themes of morality, conviction, and consequence. The story follows Kelsea, the young queen whose life is overturned when she learned of her heritage. She takes control of a kingdom on its knees and struggles to heal it of its many problems. Magic, nebulous enemies, internal strife; these are the problems Kelsea faces. She relies on her own strength to push her through the opposition. She is a character whose creation is almost flawless- she seems entirely real, utterly believable. Would recommend this book to all.
Have you read The Queen of the Tearling?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Queen of the Tearling reader reviews
Annelise from Canada
If you're reading this review, you should know I completely disagree with the reviews above. To me, it's a very well developed and thought out series. If you stop after the first book, you're depriving yourself of the full story. Then again, if you didn't like the first one, why should you keep reading. The purpose, after all, is to entertain, is it not? Two major points I wish to address. First, the switching of the POV. The story is primarily Kelsea's story. But not only. It is the story of a people and the questions: is it possible to have a truly utopian society? Or a society started with an idealistic leader? Can we maintain that society? Or is human nature too flawed to do so? Where does it all go wrong? Robin Hobb is masterful, I agree. But her story is told from one character's story because it is HIS story. That is not the case here. Kelsea is merely a small part in a much larger picture and the story needs the different POVs to demonstrate that. Second, the two dimensional characters. The Queen of the Tearling is not meant to be a beginning middle and end. It is a beginning. To see the development that the above author so longs for, I believe they need to read second and third books. Erika Johansen does not set out to solve problems easily. She sets out to make her characters, and by extension, the reader, work for change. Nothing that is good comes easily. Therefore, things unfold gradually in this story. You have to be patient to get the reward.
Becky from USA
I think this book committed my cardinal sin for books: It was quite boring in many places. I read it because of all of the hype, but found it to be mediocre as well with periods of "very dull indeed" throughout.
Alejandra from Mexico
I actually read the book for the very same reason as you. I follow Emma Watson's career, so obviously if I could get a sneak peek at an upcoming role for her I would. This review is actually pretty accurate to my opinion, down to the point where I think it will actually work better as a movie than a book. What bothered me the most was the prose, the way it feels the need to over explain and lay everything out there word by word, instead of giving the reader more credit, throw in some subtext or subtlety.
6.3/10 from 4 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear while the Lord Ruler reigned with absolute power ...
Half a King
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it al...
The Faithful and The Fallen
Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will...
The Farseer Trilogy
In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma. Born on the wrong side of the sheets,...
The World Tree rises up out of the seething clouds like a green mountain, lifting its children up to the light. All creation nestles in its gigantic branches: all take shel...
Hope and Red
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two people find a common cause. Hope, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor's forces, is secretly tr...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...
In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall...
The Black God's War
Moses Siregar III
Against the backdrop of epic warfare and the powers of ten mysterious gods, Lucia struggles to understand The Black One. Her father-king wants war. Her messianic brother wa...
Wall of Night
The violence of an age-old war casts a long shadow. It falls on a world where mercy is weakness and conflict is a way of life. Young Malian is being trained to rule. Her pe...
Long ago, the evil God Torak fought a war to obtain an object of immense power - the Orb of Aldur. But Torak was defeated and the Orb reclaimed by Belgarath, the sorcerer. ...
The Emperor's Soul
Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skilful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emper...
Hunt for Valamon
When Crown Prince Valamon is impossibly taken from the heart of Algaris Castle, the only clue as to motive or culprit is the use of unknown sorcery. Reclusive cleric Seris ...
Four millennia have passed since the gods came to Myrillia, creating the nine lands of peace as a haven from the nightmarish, accursed Hinterlands. In all this time nothing...
A Trial of Blood and Steel
Spurning her royal heritage to be raised by the great warrior, Kessligh, her exquisite swordplay astonishes all who witness it. But Sasha is still young, untested in battle...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
- Recommended high fantasy books/series
- Recommended books/series featuring royalty, monarchy and empire
Best of 2016
Hope and Red
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two people find a common cause. Hope, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor's forces, is secretly train...
The Star Touched Queen
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more ...
The Pagan Night
Ruling with an iron hand, the Church has eliminated the ancient pagan ways. Yet demonic gheists terrorize the land, hunted by the Inquisition, while age-old hatreds rage betwe...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now... well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas. There’s a strange woman called The Chronometrist who will not leave her alone. Garbled warnings from bizarre creatures keep her up at night. And there’s a time portal in the keg room of the bar where she works. Soon, Hallie is tumbling through...
A corrupted city. A dark dream of power. Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his...
The Fifth Empire of Man
Rob J Hayes
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself Ki...
Ian C Esslemont
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To ...
Age of Swords
Michael J Sullivan
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the co...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...
The Last Dog on Earth
Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can...