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The Queen of the Tearling    by Erika Johansen order for
Queen of the Tearling
by Erika Johansen
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Queen of the Tearling (a debut novel by Erika Johansen) tells of the coming of age and into her responsibilities of a young princess, Kelsea Raleigh, raised in seclusion,on the orders of her mother, Queen Elyssa, before her untimely death. While presented as an adult fantasy, it would be of equal interest to older teens.

Kelsea has been raised deep in the woods by an older couple, the remote Carlin and kind and affectionate Bartholomew Glynn. Her guardians have told her little about her mother and she has no idea of her father's identity. Kelsea has built a picture of a loving mother and a great queen in her imagination.

The story opens on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday as a military troop of Tearling royal guard approaches their homestead. The soldiers are clearly there out of duty, expecting little from the princess (identified by a scar and by the sapphire pendant she has always worn) they have vowed to take safely back to the capital, New London.

Kelsea is in great danger. Her uncle, the Regent, wants to hold on to power and the journey to the Keep is perilous. The Red Queen of Mortmesne (a witch) is also her enemy, as she effectively controls the country through the Regent. After the Mort invaded, pillaging and slaughtering all in their path, the Tearling agreed to pay annual tribute.

En route to the Keep, Kelsea and a guard are captured by outlaws led by the Fetch, who seems to be assessing her character. Her courage and intelligence surprise him. He releases her but tells her he will be watching her actions as queen. When she arrives in New London, she learns what kind of a queen her mother really was and what tribute she agreed to, to save her kingdom.

There are regular attempts on Kelsea's life (even at her coronation) as she does all she can to be a stronger queen than her mother was. Another invasion by the Mort is imminent and there are traitors in the Keep. Kelsea's survival is unlikely, but her actions gradually win the loyalty of key figures, and she finds she has unexpected powers.

Though uneven in places, The Queen of the Tearling is an exciting debut with a strong heroine, struggling to do what is right, whatever the cost to herself. I'm looking forward to this young queen's further adventures.

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