From Goodreads.com: On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.
Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.
But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.
Published: July 2014
Why I Chose It: I saw this on a friend’s Goodreads page. I was immediately curious about a book lover who was supposed to become a Queen! PLUS I totally heard rumours that they’re considering making this a movie with Emma Watson as Kelsea, so of course I needed to read the book first!
I loved this character. Kelsea is put in an incredibly difficult situation of assuming a throne she has never seen, and she’s only nineteen. I was immediately impressed with her determination and strength. It would have been so easy to give up the throne and run away, yet that thought never crosses Kelsea’s mind. I was also in love with the acute detail Johansen uses when writing this character. Her writing is incredibly skilled in that I got glimpses of the fear and insecurities that Kelsea has, yet they were just that – glimpses. These feelings are never dwelt upon, and Kelsea remains a vision of strength despite the inner glimpses given. I was never overwhelmed by Kelsea’s feelings nor distracted by them, and I was so incredibly happy with the way Johansen managed this.
I also loved all the supporting characters. These are mainly the guards that were sent to protect Kelsea and her ascension of the throne. These guards were wonderful because they had varying levels of distrust and dislike for Kelsea that was visible. Over time they begin to trust her as they should trust a Queen, which as a reader made me trust Kelsea too. I loved that they weren’t infatuated with her at the beginning, but rather over time, and even as they grew to like her it came in forms such as respect and honour, rather than infatuation or love. I think the supporting guards were very well done and really helped to support Kelsea’s character.
Kelsea becomes attached to her kingdom quite fast, which I really appreciated. While Kelsea is traveling to the capital she goes through different areas of her kingdom. She is able to observe and assess her kingdom and the situations there. I really liked being able to see parts of the kingdom rather than hearing about them through someone else. I think it gave a lot of credit to Kelsea too. She also gives great attention to humanity and civility, and does things like protects the women around her and gives them the respect that they deserve. I think there’s a lot of important narratives throughout this book and I really commend Johansen on that.
The one aspect I thought may have been weak was the world history, which is given in pieces throughout the book. This world is actually a future dystopian version of our own world, but they have lost access to technology and a lot of human knowledge, thus reverting back to a feudal system. I actually don’t mind that idea, and Johansen expressed it in an interesting way by giving Kelsea access to a few books that give her a distorted view of the past. While I understand that Kelsea herself only had a limited knowledge of her world history, I was frustrated by the lack of information of how humankind had gotten from our world into the Tearling, a completely separate world where magic is possible. There’s really nothing to explain it, and while I like and can accept the idea of this world, I didn’t quite see the connection being made to our own world in the story.
Overall, I love the story, the characters, and even with its flaws, the setting. There are a lot of little pieces that are working really well together in this story, and I thought it created a very nice, enjoyable, rounded story. Even though I found flaws in the world building, I was able to overlook that aspect of the book because I was enjoying the characters and their interactions so much. This book is a great read for a strong female character, or those interested in kingdom politics or court life. I’m very much looking forward to the next book – I can’t wait to find out what happens!
Rating: 5 / 5
“Lady, I think you’re made of much stronger stuff than you appear. You strike me as one who might make a real queen one day, but you’re marked for death, and so are those who follow you. I have a family, Lady. Children. I wouldn’t use my children in a game of cards; I can’t set their lives at hazard by following you, not in the face of such odds.” p 31
“The Queen’s jewel, almost invisible moments ago, now flared a bright aquamarine, so bright that Javel had to squint, even at this distance. The necklace swung, a glowing blue pendulum over the Queen’s head, and she seemed to grow taller, her skin lit from within. She was no longer a round-faced girl in a worn cloak; for a moment she seemed to fill the whole world, a tall, grave woman with a crown on her head.” p 125-126
“Kelsea wasn’t the only one pleased with her library. Queen’s Guards had to be able to read and write, and whenever Kelsea wandered in, she found off-duty guards lying on sofas or curled up in armchairs with one of her books. There seemed to be something for everyone.” p 274