On its face, The Queen of the Tearling is your standard young adult fare – a young queen, a handsome and mysterious love interest, emerging magic, a kingdom that must be saved. I’m not dismissing YA novels when I say this, but the Tearling series is so much more. These books are suitable for high schoolers, but also eminently rereadable and enjoyable for those of us celebrating our ten+ year reunions. Think late Harry Potter range. But the good ones.
Kelsea Raleigh has known her whole life that she is queen. Raised by foster parents in virtual isolation far from the castle, an escort of guards arrives on her nineteenth birthday, right on schedule, to take her to her queen’s seat and crown her. It will be a dangerous road – the Regent, her uncle, has been trying to locate and kill her her entire life – but if she makes it, she will be the Queen of the Tearling, with all the dubious honor that entails.
The first book expertly sets the stage, introducing us to the Tearling as it stands now and showing, not telling, us who the players are. Kelsea may be a little impulsive and prone to quick anger, but she has also been raised with a stern understanding of right and wrong and the stony righteousness to follow through with her beliefs. The Tearling is a near-feudal kingdom, poverty-stricken and perpetually at near-war with its neighbor, the far more dangerous Mortmesne and its sorceress Red Queen. Kelsea begins to unravel the secrets behind the rule of her kingdom and is determined to do right by her people, and be a better Queen than her vain mother ever bothered to be.
As The Queen of the Tearling tells the present, Invasion and Fate delve deeply into its past and explore the ideals of utopian societies and how quickly they can fall apart, the corruptibility of human nature, and the dangers of a cult of personality whether good or bad. They are engaging, with quick-moving plots and a genuinely fascinating cast of characters. Kelsea is one of my favorite heroines out there, complex and strong and a little bit petty but determined and so deeply angry it takes over at her worst moments. Magic at times feels a bit like a deus ex machina, but it is also written in such a way that its boundaries and rules are deliberately vague, so I was willing to buy it. I do recommend reading the books in relatively quick succession – on my first read, I left months in between and was a little lost. Rereading them this time back to back was much better.
Important to note: human trafficking and abuse are relatively common themes throughout these books. They are absolutely portrayed as evils and things to be stopped at all costs, but it may make the books slightly too mature for younger readers.
Bingo Square(s): And So It Begins, This Is The End