Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.
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.
Oh my gosh!! You guys! This book was phenomenal! It was glorious! I highly recommend this to any person out there, seriously everyone.
The writing style in this was incredible- there was sass, humor, and personality in every sentence. It was clear that a significant amount of time had been dedicated to each word, not a single word was wasted. The sass in this novel brought me so much joy; Kelsea refused to deal with other people’s crap and reading her reactions to various situations (usually involving some sarcastic jab) brought me great happiness. From the beginning Kelsea had a big personality that commanded attention even if she couldn’t see it herself. The amount of growing that she did within this novel was amazing to see but it wasn’t so much that you would wonder what would happen in the second book.
All of the other characters were equally developed. Even characters who didn’t have much page time- such as Barty and Carlin Glynn- were still very well developed. Seeing Kelsea’s flashbacks with her foster parents Barty and Carlin was intense because they had such a clear influence and, even though readers didn’t really see much of them, their influences could be seen in almost everyone of Kelsea’s decisions as a queen and as a friend. She believed in herself, she thought things through, she valued education, and she understood the importance of closes companionship as a result of Barty and Carlin.
Lazarus and Kelsea had honestly one of the strangest power dynamics I have ever seen. Lazarus seems constantly surprised that Kelsea isn’t weak or stupid like her mother despite the numerous amounts of times that Kelsea has shown she is different. Thus, the power that Lazarus was used to displaying played in an interesting way against Kelsea’s own stubbornness. Their relationship was filled with sarcasm and funny jabs and a lot of forgiving- it was one of the sweetest and strangest relationships throughout the novel.
The Red Queen, and the Mort as a whole, were important characters because they are what is driving the entire plot. However, they were also minor characters because we as readers didn’t really see much of them. This novel mainly focused on the internal issues within a corrupt kingdom and how Kelsea remedied them and I believe that the Red Queen will become more apparent and flushed out in book two: The Invasion of the Tearling. Even though The Red Queen acted more as a looming shadow for the future, she too was characterized. She gets sections to herself to explain the relationship between the Mort and the Tearlings and show why there is so much corruption within the Tearling.
The magic, and thus the fantasy, doesn’t become immediately obvious within the beginnings of the novel. I’m not sure if this is because I wasn’t paying enough attention but I enjoyed the slow world building that took place throughout. Johansen crafted a fully imaginable world that was realistic yet different enough that there was a level of intrigue to the world. She also didn’t reveal everything about this world within this novel and I feel that more of it will be revealed as the series continues.
Johansen created a spectacular novel filled with incredible imagery and description that allows readers to visualize every little detail. While there was some unnecessary descriptions at some parts, overall it created a cohesive novel. Power dynamics and corruption was thoroughly flushed out in this novel and will continue into the sequel. And the relationships among characters will continue to be explored as they change. I recommend this novel to everyone, especially anyone who wants a fast paced, high intensity, realistic- like fantasy novel.