Today I’m going to be reviewing not one, but three books! I had initially read the entire series as they were released, but for the life of me I couldn’t recall what happened in the books, or how the series had ended. This really bothered me, so I decided to sit down and reread all three books to refresh my memory.
**This review may contain minor spoilers**
Titles: The Queen of the Tearling, The Invasion of the Tearling, and The Fate of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: 2014-2016
Page Count: 448, 515 and 496
Overall Rating (For the Whole Trilogy: 3/5
Content Warnings: Child Abuse/harm, Self-Harm, Pedophilia, Violence, Sexual Assault
This is a very interesting series, I will give it that. The blend of science fiction with fantasy, and the concepts of inter-dimensional (maybe? It’s not time travel…) do make it stand out. I did like the overarching storyline, and I thought the flashbacks and the viewpoints of the different characters were balanced well enough so nothing overshadowed anything else. Elements of the present story rely on events that happened in the past, and it was fun to see the mystery unfolding through the flashbacks we’re given. The themes of the trilogy really gravitated towards the darker side of things. It really paints society as a whole with a bit of a negative paint brush, highlighting how people’s greed and personal wants outshine the betterment of the people as a group.
There are some pretty heavy topics in the books that I feel push this series more into adult rather than young adult fiction. At certain points, especially in the second and third books, there are some pretty graphic scenes that aren’t necessarily gratuitous, but are definitely jarring. I wouldn’t say there are any scenes that are used purely for shock value, but it definitely makes for an intense reading experience. This series is not in any way “light reading”.
One personal pet peeve I had with the main character, who otherwise shows decent growth over the course of the three books, is the fixation on beauty. Right from the start Kelsea is described as ‘plain’, which apparently in this land means you might as well walk around with a bag over your head. Her weight comes up a lot in the same vein, she’s not model thin so clearly no men in her life will find her attractive. These facts are reiterated over and over, to the point of annoyance. In the second book an entire subplot revolves around her sudden change in appearance. Somehow this is just as bad as being ‘plain’ because now people are concerned she is becoming vain and stupid. So beauty is good but not for a leader, just for being attractive in the eyes of men. Yeesh, okay rant over.
I would say the series has merit as an interesting blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and if you’re looking for a heavier read with some overt moral and societal themes, you should give this series a chance. I didn’t mind giving the series a reread, but I likely won’t be picking it up again for a while.