The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has multiple personalities, some that I like, and others that I could do without. There are moments when this was a solid 4 star read, with sparkles of 5, and it held my full attention. Then there were long stretches that were so boring that I still can’t keep any of those characters straight and can’t recall what really happened (because nothing really happened).

Where this first goes wrong is that it presents, in terms of setting, as a historical/medieval novel, except that it’s a fantasy world, only it’s not really a fantasy world, it’s a futuristic dystopia of our current world. Um…what? Are any of you still with me? If not, no worries, because I read the entire book and still do not have a clue what is going on with this setting, world, or the world building.

Don’t get me wrong. I like cross genre novels, but this is not that. This is a poorly fleshed out world, and I found that frustrating, even though I’m not one who enjoys a ton of elaborate setting. This isn’t just about the setting, it’s about the whole entire world. If you aren’t much of a fantasy reader or you are okay with vaguey-vague-vague-vague when it comes to your fantasy world or world building, this may work for you. Most of the time, it didn’t work for me, but I hung in there, thinking any moment might be the moment where it all comes together, which at least gave me something to anticipate across the long boring stretches of the story where nothing seems to happen.

The world building that does exist, is sometimes interesting and other times just downright confusing, bewildering, and poorly thought out. On a scale of 1 to 10, this should get maybe a 2 or 3 for world building. Since they’re selling this as some sort of epic or high fantasy novel, that’s absolutely atrocious. It is no way compares to the epics in YA fantasy, such as Sarah J. Mass or Leigh Bardugo.

What I do love is the main character, who is interesting, refreshing, and just a bit different. If she had stayed in control of the story, I probably would have enjoyed it far more. Instead, the story would often shift away from her and follow other people who weren’t that interesting and didn’t seem to be all that important to the plot, enough to have warranted their own segment. Also, for whatever reason, most of their names blurred together. It seems like half the males in the novel have names starting with a T.

The previous comment reminds me that the males in this story, on the whole, are sexist, small minded, superior, and disloyal, even those closest to the Queen, which I also don’t love. I mean, I kind of love one of them despite that, but I also want to smack him, upon occasion. As for the rest, their motivations and character development are typically one dimensional, and occasionally two dimensional, at best, so it’s hard for me to take much interest in them.

That brings us to the plot which is extremely sparse and drawn out, and the storyline, which is epically slow. There was a perfect setup here for a lot to happen in this first novel, and instead, the forward motion was pretty minimal. Early after arriving at her kingdom, Kelsea does something that should enrage a Queen of another kingdom, but who knows what happens? The story never progresses enough (past 7 days) for us to even find out what the consequences were for her rash decision.

It actually must be kind of nice to do something that should cause a major upset, and then not have to deal with the consequences. It’s great for the MC. For the reader, it’s just disappointing. The author seems unable to put her character in truly difficult situations, and if things do get a bit hairy, the MC always immediately overcomes the issue or obstacle with a bit of unexplained magic. Again, that’s great for Kelsea, because her life is pretty easy, but it doesn’t make this story as interesting to read as it could be. She basically never has to overcome true adversity. It’s just all surface adversity or telling us about Kelsea’s trials. Never are we shown how she’s faced with disaster and overcomes, and her magic always arises just in time that nothing truly bad ever occurs.

I guess I’m just not that interested in reading about constant good luck, or if I am, then I want to fully understand the magic or world building that led to that sort of luck.

I have to confess, I’m going to go on and read book two, even though I’m worried. I have to do it, because I want to know a bit more about what happens, since almost nothing at all is addressed or resolved in book one. Also, I already purchased the audiobook, so it will feel like I threw money away if I don’t at least try it.

I know this review sounds critical, so I think it’s important to say that I don’t hate this book. There are some characters and scenes that I really enjoyed. I suspect some people may actually love this book. The problem for me is that this had the potential to be something fantastic, and the fact that it just isn’t upsets me more than anything else. It’s not terrible, it just needed a lot more critical editing than it got. It feels almost like an early draft, and I can’t help thinking that if it had gone through a few more rewrites, this story could be so much better.

Wasted scenes should have been cut, and the world building should have been improved, as there are some bones here from a skeleton of a story that I could have potentially loved. So I’m even more upset, because I think this had potential and fell short, rather than it’s just a mediocre novel to match my mediocre score.

I should now repeat that I really did love some parts of this novel. I’m not suggesting with my review that you don’t read it. I’m just suggesting that you should lower your expectations before you pick it up. Ignore the poor comparisons to other novels. Don’t expect a novel full of rich world building. Realize that forward motion will be slow. Don’t expect the issues from early in the novel to be addressed or resolved by the end of the novel. Also, be aware of a randomly planted and not fully fleshed out love interest who only appears at the start and the end of the novel, by which time you’ve already lost interest. He’s definitely a plant, and his being there, for both events, in no way helps the plot of the story. I suspect it’s just to place him in the lineup as a potential suitor for future books. Also meh.

I’m hoping book 2 doesn’t suffer the issues of book 1, and that it will have been worth sticking it out. If not, I suspect I won’t continue on to Book 3.

Pages: 464

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