Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: The Queen of the Tearling

This book had come recommended by so many, and was on the list of books I was most excited to pick up for my Blogoversary in July. However, I didn't get the chance to really devote myself to its political intrigue and high fantasy world until I was finished with some of the busiest parts of my Fall... but after that, I was completely committed.

The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen, follows the journey of Kelsea, a young girl raised in secret, with the knowledge that she would become Queen some day. As she battles skillful assassins and treacherous court life in her quest to reclaim her throne and title, she finds that the realities of life in the kingdom she was raised to reign are even more terrifying than those who try to keep her from it. She'll be the one to change everything... whether or not her enemies are ready to keep up.  

This book is addicting: frenetic pace, quiet power, strong and driven characters... and, of course, high fantasy, which I love. Lots of twists and turns, and secrets-to-be-revealed. However, like I also said, it took me a while to get around to finishing this book. I wanted to read it, but I wanted to take the time to really read it fully, and in the end, I wasn't disappointed that I took it slow. When I did get the chance to commit to a page count, I soared through it, that kind of effortlessly enjoyable reading where you happen to glance up at the page number, and think, Wow, am I on Page Whatever already? Still, I had to set out to deliberately make the time for it. 

When it comes to the world-building, it was a pretty unique high fantasy novel, in background... yes, I'm talking about the 24th century slant. Yeah, this book has a setting that contains recognizable elements of the past, while also being set in the future! As it turns out, modern medicine and technology have died in a post-apocalyptic crossing voyage, a kind of utopian Noah's Ark event, that has plunged the world into a magic-laced Dark Ages. So... beat that. 

Another interesting angle to the novel, was that it has a deeply feminist slant, especially in the opinions of  Kelsea, our main character. I was actually a little surprised to hear people be skeptical about it for those kinds of reasons: they had heard it was very political. When I think of politics in high fantasy, I think of the court intrigue in Game of Thrones, and while there is quite a bit of that, what my friend was talking about was actually the strong political statements being made in the context of the narrative. 

Keslea is passionately feminist (yay!), but that passion is also matched with expressed strongly atheistic sentiments (enabled a little bit by some strong ecclesiastical subterfuge and corruption), and there's also commentary on issues of slavery, pedophilia (especially in terms of men in positions of power), extreme poverty, and more. Phew! That's quite a laundry list of issues represented in the context of one work. 

However, none of these political opinions are shoehorned into the story itself... they all make sense within the context of what's happening in the world at the heart of the story. Still, yes, it does feel a little political at times, but not needlessly. 

One thing I don't necessarily agree with is the classification of the novel as YA - which I've seen done in a couple of different places - as opposed to just regular Fantasy, mainly because of that kind of political nature, but also the brutality of the violence and overt nature of some sexual themes of the book. I just think it found more themes in common with Game of Thrones than Throne of Glass, but then again, members of both those audiences might enjoy this novel as well. 

Still, this book might be one of my favorite reads of the whole year, and it definitely wasn't a quick one. If I waited half a year to get my hands on the first installment of the franchise for my bloggoversary, you can bet one of the first things I'm doing after 2015 is over is getting my hands on its sequel.

Final Verdict: The Queen of the Tearling, though thick with detail and tough topics, is also a fierce adrenaline rush kind of read. You can't read it in one afternoon, but that doesn't mean you won't want to try. Definitely pick up a copy! 

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