“Kelsea Glynn had a temper. She was not proud of this fact. Kelsea hated herself when she was angry, for even with her heart thumping and a thick veil of fury obscuring her vision, she could still see, clearly, the straight path from unchecked anger to self-destruction. Anger clouded judgement, precipitated bad decisions. Anger was the indulgence of a child, not a queen.”
After putting a stop to the shipment of Tear slaves to the neighbouring kingdom Mortmesne, Kelsea Raleigh Glynn is the Queen of a country on the brink of war with a vastly more powerful enemy. Though the Tear sapphires delayed their doom in the confrontation at the Argive Pass, the Mort army is now marching inexorably on New London. As Kelsea undertakes a desperate evacuation of the Tear countryside, she finds herself losing time, slipping into a fugue state where she inhabits the pre-Crossing life of a woman named Lily Mayhew. Kelsea clings to the Tear sapphires, hoping against hope for another miracle, even as the stones seem to be working a terrible change on her body, and perhaps even her mind. Opposed by the Church, and doubted even by her closest friends and allies, Kelsea struggles to figure out the connection between her visions of Lily’s crumbling world, and her own current predicament.
The Invasion of the Tearling is told from the perspective of several characters, both major and minor, including an officer in the Tear army, and a jailor in the Keep, as well as the Red Queen of Mortmesne, Kelsea, and finally, Lily Mayhew, the pre-Crossing woman with whom Kelsea shares a mysterious connection. In The Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen kept the history of the founding of Tear close, leading to some confusion about whether it was set in a fantasy world, or our own world after some devastating apocalypse. With the daring and perhaps divisive narrative decision to include Lily’s perspective, Johansen begins to provide some overdue answers about the Crossing that preceded the founding of William Tear’s utopia.
The Invasion of the Tearling is a compulsive read, and Johansen’s pacing is tantalizing, due in large part to the shifting perspectives, which cut in and out at key junctures. I hated being torn away from the answers finally being provided in Lily’s point-of-view, and was burning with curiosity about what she would reveal next, but by the time we returned to her, I had become thoroughly reinvested in Kelsea’s problems and perspectives. Truly, Johansen manages the shifting narration with a deft hand, even though her timing is maddening. But though the suspense kept me turning the pages, what I found there was not always satisfying or fully explained.
Steady and decisive in The Queen of the Tearling, Kelsea becomes an inconsistent and unpredictable character in The Invasion of the Tearling, buffeted by the supernatural and unexplained forces of the dark thing and the Tear sapphires, as well as the impossible predicaments and responsibilities of her crown. Though she remains focused on doing the right thing by evacuating her people from the path of the Mort army, she seems to have lost her moral compass in many other respects. With the workings of the Tear sapphires still unexplained, and the extent of the dark thing’s influence unclear, it is hard to say which changes originate where, and to what ultimate effect. It was fascinating to watch Kelsea slowly amass power and respect in The Queen of the Tearling, but as her power continues to grow in unexplained ways, that hard-earned respect quickly gives way to fear. Johansen will have a lot of work to do to fully justify these changes and rehabilitate her protagonist in the final volume, and much rests on how she brings it all together. Certainly, the plot’s heavy reliance on a piece of unexplained magic or technology—the Tear sapphires—cannot continue.
You might also like The Silvered by Tanya Huff