Cover of Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

About the Book

Title: The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1)
Published: 2015

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Talky Talk: Future Fantasy
Bonus Factors: Mysterious Loner Dude, Book Love
Factor: Déjà Vu
Trigger Warning: Adult Themes
Anti-Bonus Factor: Cursing for Cursing’s Sake
Relationship Status: Loyal Subject

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

No Big Face. No Turn Arrrrroooooound. No Fancy Dress. Nothing but a pretty title and a mysterious castle on a hill. this cover would cater to young adults and adults—and those of us who blur the lines whenever we feel like it—alike.

The Deal:

For more than a decade, Kelsea Raleigh has been hidden away in a forest far from her birthplace of New London. And for most of those years, Kelsea has also been hunted. You see, Kelsea’s the rightful queen of Tearling, and her uncle—a terrible waste of space of a man—wants nothing more than to claim her throne for his own. Kelsea’s also been kept in the dark about her country, and her mother’s reign, “for her own good.”

On her 19th birthday, a group of men—the Queen’s Guard—come to take Kelsea back to New London so that she can take her place on the throne. The trip there will be filled with danger, and there’s no telling how long she’ll last once she reaches the Keep, but Kelsea resigns herself to her duty and goes with. If, at the very least, to figure out what all she doesn’t know.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

OK, sure. There would be something satisfyingly glamorous about being the best friend of a queen. But Kelsea would be a great friend regardless of her position. Her life hasn’t exactly been easy—her foster parents were loving, but also worked hard to prepare her for the life of a Queen, which, in Tearling, isn’t all bonbons and balls. Kelsea’s also got a strong sense of self and an instinct worth trusting, two qualities which would be great to have in a good friend.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

On her way to New London, Kelsea is captured by a mysterious brand of brigands. The leader, who goes by the moniker of The Fetch, isn’t a good man. Not even close. And yet, there’s something about him that Kelsea just can’t resist. The score of 8 I give this relationship is in part for what happens in the book, and in part for the promise of things to come.

Talky Talk: Future Fantasy

In The Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen has created a medieval fantasy story that reads like a fantasy story—but is, in fact, a story in which our future is the past. It’s unclear when or exactly where the story takes place, or what happened to lead to what is referred to as The Crossing, a mass exodus from the old world to the new. Both America and Britain are mentioned, and there’s talk about the science that used to be. These mere glimpses of backstory create intrigue and would make me want to keep reading, even if the main story wasn’t half as interesting as it is. As it is, Johansen gives us just enough to tantalize.

But I am left with one question that presses me more than most: Is it Tearling as in a shed tear of sadness or as a tear in a piece of paper? I can’t tell you how much this bothered me while I was reading.

Bonus Factor: Book Love

A young boy hugs a pile of books.

In a world in which books are scarce and rare treasures, Kelsea grew up in a household full of them, thanks to her foster mother. Kelsea, therefore, knows the power of the written word. And she shares this power with her subjects. There’s even mention of some well-known classics—”the seven volumes of Rowling” in particular—that made me smile.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

Jordan Catalano, a hot brooding stoner, in My So-Called Life

The Fetch wears a mask and can get in and out of practically anywhere as though he were made of wind. There’s something unusual about him, and there are a whole lot of secrets surrounding him. Kelsea’s not the only one who’s intrigued by the man.

Factor: Déjà Vu

The movie posters of Armageddon and Deep Impact

Recently, I reviewed Mary E. Pearson’s The Kiss of Deception, which is also a medieval story that takes place in our future. The books were different, and both quite good, but I find it curious that two books with such a similar basic plot would come out so near each other.

Trigger Warning: Adult Themes

Depending on where you look, The Queen of the Tearling is being billed as both a YA novel and an adult book. There are adult themes in the book—rape, abuse, slavery, to name a few—but they’re nothing near the level of, say, Game of Thrones. Still, these scenes are uncomfortable, to say the least.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Cursing for Cursing’s Sake

Red fabric with a sign that reads "NSFW" or "Not Safe for Work"

To go along with the adult themes, a few curse words are strewn through the novel. Some are used properly—said by a guardsman or mercenary—but others just stood out to me as though they were put in for shock value.

Relationship Status: Loyal Subject

I’m fully prepared to get down on one knee, Book, and pledge my loyalty to you. You’ve made me a believer in Tearling, and in the reign of Queen Kelsea. I’m not really good with a lack of electricity or proper bathroom facilities, however, so I’ll remain in my time and be content just reading about yours.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins. I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Queen of the Tearling is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.