Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction

The Fate of the Tearling (Queen of the Tearling #3)

Cover image for The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansenby Erika Johansen


“For three long centuries the Fetch had watched William Tear’s dream sink further and further into the mire. No one in the Tearling could even see Tear’s better world any longer, let alone muster the courage to dig for it.”

By handing over the Tear sapphires to the Red Queen, Kelsea has bought a reprieve in the war with Mortmesne, but at a terrible price. She is taken captive, and imprisoned in a dungeon beneath the Palais in Desmesne. With her hold on her kingdom slipping, the Red Queen is desperate to master the magic of the sapphires before the dark threat from the Fairwitch sweeps her off her throne. The Mace is left in charge of New London, torn between his duty to rescue Kelsea as head of the Queen’s Guard, and his responsibility to rule Tear as her Regent. He cannot leave Kelsea imprisoned, but sensing an opportunity, the Arvath is attempting to wrest power from the crown, and Lazarus must move on two fronts. The fate of the Tearling hangs in the balance.

In The Queen of the Tearling, the series began as a traditional fantasy tale of a young monarch coming to power after being raised in secrecy for her own protection. In her first days on the throne, Kelsea Raleigh Glynn made powerful enemies by stopping the shipment of Tear slaves to Mortmesne. But from that prosaic beginning, the trilogy has made some unusual choices, revealing a dystopian twist, and a science-fiction turn that create an interesting blend of genres. Johansen has built a unique world, but one that requires a high level of buy-in from the reader, and acceptance that not everything will be readily explained. With The Fate of the Tearling bringing the trilogy to a close, there are still many questions and loose threads left over from the second volume.

Raised in exile by a historian, Kelsea believes strongly in the importance of history, and that the past can help her unlock their present predicament. Imprisoned in a Mort dungeon, she gives herself over to her strange fugue states, which mysteriously continue despite the fact that she has been separated from Tear’s sapphires. Though Lily Mayhew is still alive at the time, Kelsea is now seeing William Tear’s Town through the eyes of Katie Rice, the daughter of Tear’s trusted lieutenant, Dorian. As Tear’s utopian dream begins to unravel in the years after the Crossing, Katie is recruited for secret training to guard Tear’s heir, Jonathan. These flashback sections are more loosely framed than in The Invasion of the Tearling, possibly because with Kelsea imprisoned, there is little other action to interrupt.

Since Kelsea is imprisoned in Mortmesne, Johansen draws on the perspectives of wide variety of secondary characters to flesh out the wider story. In New London, Andalie’s daughter Aisa observes events from her new position as a member of the Queen’s Guard. Several chapters are seen from the perspective of Arlen Thorne’s witch, Brenna, who was captured and imprisoned in the Keep dungeon. The traitorous Gate Guard Javel follows the Queen’s Guard on their mission to Desmesne, more to find his long-lost wife than for any interest in rescuing the Queen. As usual, Johansen perfectly times her changes in perspective for maximum dramatic tension.

In the first two installments of the series, Kelsea relied heavily on the magic of the mysterious Tear sapphires, handed down through generations of Raleigh monarchs. Their precise origins and the source of their power both remained unexplained, making them a rather unsatisfying device. In The Fate of the Tearling, we finally get some answers, but perhaps not as many as some readers might desire. Despite the explanations, the sapphires are still overly-convenient devices, but understanding their history does mitigate this somewhat. This reliance on the sapphires weakens Kelsea’s character, and the series as a whole, but Johansen’s strong pacing, and complex characters such as Mace, the Red Queen, and the Fetch carry the series to an intriguing if not entirely satisfying conclusion.


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Challenges, Read Diverse 2017

24 in 48 and Diverse-a-thon Kick-Off

In a fit of over-ambition, I’ve signed up for two awesome reading events that are taking place over the next week across various social media channels.

Cover images for my readathon TBRToday marks the start of 24 in 48, a read-a-thon during which ambitious participants aim to read for 24 hours out of the 48 hour weekend. I participated for the first time this summer, and succeeded in hitting that goal thanks to a combination of dedicated reading and audio books. Having hit that high bar once, I am planning to rest on my laurels and take a more relaxed approach this time out, and instead use the event to make sure I log a solid block of reading time this weekend.

Overlapping with 24 in 48 is Diverse-a-thon, an event that started on BookTube in September 2016. This is their second outing, which is expanding beyond BookTube to include book bloggers and Bookstagram. The purpose of this read-a-thon is to bolster marginalized writers, and particularly own voices titles. Taking part in this read-a-thon seemed like a natural extension of my participation in the Read Diverse 2017 challenge. This is a longer event that runs from January 22 to 29, which means dedicating an entire week to diverse reads!

So what’s on my TBR for these two events?

24 in 48

The Fate of the Tearling 

Cover image for The Fate of the Tearling by Erika JohansenThe first two books in Erika Johansen’s series, The Queen of the Tearling and The Invasion of the Tearling, introduced an intriguing world that is part fantasy and part dystopian, centering around the ascension of Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, and her fight to retain her throne. This one tops my list because I am curious to get answers to the many questions that were left unanswered at the end of the second book, and also because this is the next book in my stack due back at the library.

In Other Words 

Cover image for In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri It is impossible to have a really good 24 in 48 without audio books, for me at least! Suddenly, necessary chores and exercise are transformed into additional reading time on the clock. Jhumpa Lahiri wrote this book in Italian, and it was translated into English by Ann Goldstein. The audio version is then performed by the author–talk about layers! This autobiographical work describes Lahiri’s 2012 move to Rome in order to immerse herself in the Italian language. I am fascinated by bilingualism, and the process of learning another language, so I can’t wait to check this out.


You Can’t Touch My Hair 

Cover image for You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe RobinsonPhoebe Robinson is a comedian best known for her podcast, 2 Dope Queens, with Jessica Williams. I have to admit that I have never listened to it, but I discovered this collection on a display at my library. A book of essays seems like the perfect choice for reading in bits and pieces throughout a week-long event. And since I love to laugh while I learn, this seems like a strong pick for getting an own voices perspective on being a black woman in America.  Bonus task: Listen to an episode of 2 Dope Queens sometime this week.

Juliet Takes a Breath 

Cover image for Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby RiveraI’ve seen so many good reviews of Gabby Rivera’s book around the blogosphere, that I finally decided to request it from the library. And what do you know, it landed in my lap just in time for diverse-a-thon. Juliet has just come out to her Puerto Rican family, and is now moving across the country for an intership with her feminist hero, Harlowe Brisbane. But when she arrives in Portland, she quickly realizes that Harlowe’s feminism doesn’t seem to have room for people like her. A story about the importance of intersectional feminism seems like just thing for diverse-a-thon.

Naturally, I reserve the right to shake up my TBR at a whim, as the spirit moves me during the read-a-thon itself. Plans are worthless, after all, even if planning is everything. Now let’s get reading!

Are you participating in 24 in 48 or Diverse-a-thon? What’s on your TBR? Link me up!

Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, Speculative Fiction

The Invasion of the Tearling (Queen of the Tearling #2)

Cover image for Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansenby Erika Johansen

ISBN 978-0-06-229039-7

“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.


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Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction

The Queen of the Tearling

Cover image for The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansenby Erika Johansen

ISBN 978-0-06-229036-6

“Carlin often said that history was everything, for it was in man’s nature to make the same mistakes over and over. She would look hard at Kelsea when she said so, her white eyebrows folding down, preparing to disapprove. Carlin was fair, but she was also hard. If Kelsea completed all of her school work by dinnertime, her reward was to be allowed to pick a book from the library and stay up reading until she had finished. Stories moved Kelsea most, stories of things that never were, stories that transported her beyond the changeless world of the cottage.”

The Tearling was intended to be a socialist utopia, founded after an apocalypse that left humanity with only remnants of the age of science. But in the centuries since, the dream has fallen apart, and this New World is reminiscent mostly of Europe’s feudal Dark Age. The heir to this beleaguered kingdom is Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, who has been raised in hiding since the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa. On Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the remaining members of her mother’s Queen’s Guard arrives at her hidden forest home to fulfill their oaths to her mother by escorting Kelsea to New London to assume the throne. There she finds a kingdom in disrepair after years of profligate rule under her Uncle’s Regency, but also the consequences of her mother’s final years on the throne. Stunned by the horrific injustice that has plagued her kingdom for decades, Kelsea’s first brave but impulsive act as Queen sets Tearling on the road to war with the powerful neighbouring nation of Mortmesne and its sinister Red Queen.

Erika Johansen’s fantasy debut is the gripping tale of a young Queen fighting for her throne against impossible odds. The political machinations are not especially sophisticated, but it is fascinating to watch Kelsea slowly win over new allies. Her isolated upbringing has turned her into something of an idealist, but she comes up short in terms of practical knowledge of how to execute her policies, so it is a constant battle to earn the trust and respect of the people she needs to help her retain her throne. Her youth and her gender both make her task more difficult, but so does the fact that her mother and uncle were incompetent rulers. Her insecurity about her plain looks is a little bit grating, but hopefully it will transform into self-confidence as she grows into her crown.

In terms of genre, The Queen of the Tearling is a curious blend of fantasy and dystopian, with the story set in a post-apocalyptic world, which seems to have caused much confusion amongst readers. The Tearling was founded as a utopian, technophobic society that allowed only medical science. However, even much of the medical knowledge was lost in the Crossing, so while the story acknowledges our world, history, and ideas, in practice, the Crossing cut the people of the Tearling off from most advancements, returning them to the medieval society that is a hallmark of fantasy. There is magic in the world of the Tearling, from the Sight to weather magic, to enchanted objects, but it is impossible to know if it is really magic, or merely some form of science that the Tearling have not lost, but no longer understand. Johansen plays her hand close to the vest, and there is much to be revealed in the coming sequels that may leave readers of the initial installment frustrated.


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