I should have written this a while ago…
Reader’s Report Part Four! Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen!
For those who are unfamiliar, a reader’s report is a report that an editorial assistant will write on a recently submitted manuscript as part of their weekly tasks. This reader’s report is for editors who are too busy to read the manuscript. In a way, an EA will help the editor to decide whether or not to acquire the book. Basic information is given like a complete summary of the plot, a critique, overall conclusion, positioning, comparative titles, and the jacket copy. In order to be hired as an editorial assistant at a certain imprint, you not only have to know the imprints titles, but also comparative titles. I definitely need more practice writing them since I work in medical publishing, where they are unnecessary. Since reader’s reports are generally more comprehensive, the one’s on my blog will be shorter and not contain spoilers for those who have not read the books! I am definitely open to critique, so comment away!
Reader’s Report: Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, Harper, July 8, 2014.
I received an Advance copy of this book from Young to Publishing Group’s (YPG) “Word of Mouth” program.
Fun fact: this book is being turned into a movie already! It stars Emma Watson.
**** 4 stars out of 5
Kelsea has lived in seclusion for all of her life, and was taught reading, writing, languages, politics, and other matters of the Tearling culture by two foster parents. She was left at the home of the Glynn’s by her mother, the former Queen Elyssa, who feared for her safety. On Kelsea’s 19th birthday riders appear to take Kelsea to the thone, but she knew this day would come. She leaves behind her two tudors and the small cottage she called home to go with with the Queen’s guard. But she takes with her two Tearling Sapphires that prove her as the queen and give her power, one she wears around her neck at all times, the other was given to her by guardian Carlin. Soon it becomes apparent that there are a band of assassins following Kelsea and her guards, in an attempt on her life by the King Regent, Kelsea’s Uncle Thomas. Kelsea and one of the guard, The Mace, break off and are almost killed, but they are saved at the last moment by a mysterious group lead by a man named The Fetch. He tells Kelsea that she will be tested and has the power to be great. She still has many questions for him about her mother and the life she left behind–Kelsea also does not know the name of her father. The Fetch takes one of the gemstones and gives her a warning that he will be watching.
When Kelsea finally arrives in the city she is culture shocked by the amount of people. As she arrives to the castle gates she sees that people are being assembled into cages to be sent to the neighboring country of Mortmesne. Kelsea makes an announcement of her right as queen and immediately orders that this be stopped–consequences be damned. She already has many followers because of this.
The next day she goes to her uncle to prove that she is the heir and rightful queen, and an assassination attempt is made on her life, but she survives, and is only stabbed in the shoulder. The Regent is then given 30 days to vacate the castle. Within the next week her uncle sees that his material possessions and “women” are gone and/or confiscated by the crown. With no other options, Thomas sets off for the Mortmesne border to seek sanctuary (but is killed by the Fetch before he makes it there). Separately, Arlen Thorne, who had gained power in the slave trade, sets up new cages that will be the temporary solution to the former Treaty with Mortmesne. (A bit of Tearling history, Mortmesne was raiding the land and in order to stop the raids and killings, Kelsea’s mother made a treaty where there would be a certain number of Tearling citizens sent to Mortemese each month.) (Other bits of history we gather in the book: it is set in the future without technology or electricity, falling back into the Medieval times.)
Kelsea does her best to correct injustices to her people, one of the main problems she notices are the lack of books. She has her foster family’s private collection sent to the castle. Kelsea had assumed that her foster family would have escaped to another village and could not bring their library with them, but Kelsea wanted to preserve it. We learn that instead of escaping to another village, Carlin and her husband Barty poisoned themselves. Kelsea is sad about this since now she has no family. We also learn that one of Kelsea’s own guard had injured her at the ceremony with the King Regent.
Occasionally Kelsea gets visions, brought to her by the gemstone she wears around her neck. She had a vision near the end of the book where she saw a mother and her children be taken from their home and put in a cage. Not wanting to waste time, Kelsea insists on leaving the castle and going to see the place in her vision. The guard are reluctant, but ultimately follower her. When they see the cages at the Mortmesne border they know something must be done.
In an effort to avoid spoilers–although I’ve said a lot already!–I will stop the synopsis here!
This was very well written, I appreciate that the author intentionally did not include a love interest or put a focus on beauty that will save the day, but ultimately on Kelsea herself, as a person. And it doesn’t seem like Kelsea would have time for a love interest, she has to save the country! The build up of the novel is good. We still have the Mortmesne war to deal with in the upcoming books. This book was well rounded with political intrigue, fantasy, and adventure. I would, however, have liked to know more about the Tearling people. The history (/the future) seems to be interesting. There was some sort of mass migration to the Tearling land that is not fully explained, but in this novel it’s not necessary to know.
This is a great book for Harper’s lists, it goes out on a limb from ordinary YA or NA in that it doesn’t have a beautiful protagonist who must find her true love, and that is refreshing. We are also introduced to a new world which has many facets that can be explored and a strong central character to explore them with.
Game of Thrones high fantasy meets The Hunger Games strong female character and dystopia. [Side note: there are critics of this marketing strategy, which is why I decided to write the specific elements of each that make up Queen of the Tearling.]
Dystopia/ Strong female lead:
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Scholastic (2008) (synopsis from Goodreads): The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory. When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
New adult/ Alternate history/ Strong female lead:
- The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, Bloomsbury USA (2013) (Synopsis from Goodreads): It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing. But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army. Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives. The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine—a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her. It also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.
Kelsea is the heir to the Tearling throne and has prepared for this role her whole life–learning writing, history, politics, and languages from her foster parents. And on her 19th birthday her Queen’s Guard come to make her the ruler of a kingdom fraught with poverty, slavery, and many years worth of injustice. Kelsea is not going into this fight empty handed; she has her loyal Queen’s Guard, plus a mysterious organization run by a man named The Fetch, her wits, and the Tearling Sapphire, which holds power she does not yet comprehend. As a queen she knows that she must be just and fair, and this creates powerful enemies. Fighting for her right to the throne is expected, but fighting for a her country will take courage and strength Kelsea has to believe in herself.