📑 Review: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen


"Kelsea Glynn is the Queen of the Tearling. Despite her youth, she has quickly asserted herself as a fair, just and powerful ruler.

However, power is a double-edged sword, and small actions can have grave consequences. In trying to do what is right - stopping a vile trade in humankind - Kelsea has crossed the Red Queen, a ruthless monarch whose rule is bound with dark magic and the spilling of blood. The Red Queen's armies are poised to invade the Tearling, and it seems nothing can stop them.

Yet there was a time before the Crossing, and there Kelsea finds a strange and possibly dangerous ally, someone who might hold the key to the fate of the Tearling, and indeed to Kelsea's own soul. But time is running out...

Erika Johansen's fierce and unforgettable young heroine returns in this dazzling new novel of magic and adventure, set in the beguiling world of the Tearling." - From Goodreads

Rating: 🐲🐲🐲🐲.5/5

Every once in a while, when I read a book, I forget to think critically about it. Not critically as in negatively, but reading while keeping in mind wot works for me and wot doesn't, plot and character development, etc. That happened while reading The Invasion of the Tearling. I don't know whether it's because it's the second in the series or something else entirely but I finished the book knowing that I highly enjoyed it, but not really having very few concrete reasons as to why.

The second book in this trilogy is a mixture of fantasy and dystopia, magic and politics cleverly woven together...there is romance, but it is something that is in the background rather than a a main plot point, as there are much more important things going on in the characters' lives. And thank God for that. I love me some love, but within reason, and I prefer there not to be "instalove" mid-invasion.

The three main focuses of this story, Queen Kelsea, the Red Queen, and Lily each have their own intriguing voice, each have their own story and struggles, all of it revolves around this concept of power and strength, of being a woman in a man's world, of freedom.

There is a good amount tension right from the start: the Mort (enemy) army is at the Tearling's border, an invasion is imminent, and Queen Kelsea is struggling to prove that she is no longer a child, desperate to not make the same mistakes her mother did. On the other side of the border we have the Red Queen who is facing unrest, her paranoia and fear of the waning, already fragile alliance with the creature that helped her (get) power warring with her insatiable desire to get the sapphires that hold the Tearling's power from Kelsea. And somewhere in between it all, long dead but no less important, we have Lily, a woman living in a world we're people are under constant supervision, desperate for a better life, a better world away from an abusive husband and numbing days.

Throughout the novel the author slowly unravels the mystery of who Lily is and wot her importance and connection to Kelsea is, just as she drops little hints surrounding the Red Queen's identity, showing you how inexorably linked past, present, and future are.

It wasn't perfect by any means, Kelsea came off as whiney and irrational in many instances during the book, we occasionally saw the story from side characters perspectives which, though interesting (and was probably important to set up plot threads for book three), made me impatient, and the ending/revelation of Lily was a little anticlimactic and mildly cliffhanger-y (which makes sense considering that there's one book left to the series). But, despite those flaws, I still really liked it it.

Erika Johansen doesn't shrink away from certain harsh, uncomfortable realities: sexual violence against women, casualties of war, humanity's thirst for vengeance and penchant towards darkness, and she managed to create a hybrid world that uses both dystopian and fantasy elements with enough parallels to our own that it comes to life.

(Some) Memorable Quotes:
  • "Whenever she had a problem to consider, she invariably found herself in the library, for it was easier to think when she was surrounded by books."

  • “Pain only disables the weak."

  • "This, I think is the crux of evil in this world, Majesty: those who feel entitled to whatever they want, whatever they can grab. Such people never ask themselves if they have the right."

  • “And Kelsea wondered suddenly whether humanity ever actually changed. Did people grow and learn at all as the centuries passed? Or was humanity merely like the tide, enlightenment advancing and then retreating as circumstances shifted? The most defining characteristic of the species might be lapse."

If anyone has read The Invasion of the Tearling (or The Queen of the Tearling) let us know what you think in the comments below! Comments also open to further book/movie/show recommendations, anything you’d like to see reviewed, or general feedback. We’d love to hear what you have to say!

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