With so much hype around this book, I was wary to read The Queen of the Tearling. I was right to be wary.
The characters were really well developed, and looking at it as a character-driven story, it is a solid 5-star. Kelsea goes through some serious growth throughout the book, from young and somewhat spoiled, to a worldly woman who is trying to do the best by her newly inherited kingdom. The supporting cast is also well-done. Mace and the other Queen’s Guards all take on their own personalities and lives. The Fetch is steeped in mystery, dark and foreboding. Even some of the characters we only see briefly leave a lasting impression, such as Marguerite.
However, I really felt like Erika Johansen fell flat when it came to the setting and the world. I spent a good portion of the book so very confused about what The Crossing was, and I actually had to track down an alternate book blurb to find out! I don’t expect a book to give up all of its secrets at once, but it would be nice if such a central plot point had been fleshed out a little (or a lot) better.
I don’t know that I would classify this book as young adult, though everyone seems to. Personally, I would rather my (extremely fictional) children weren’t exposed to some of the subject matter in The Queen of the Tearling. Erika Johansen hasn’t shied away from sex, gore, or mentions of rape and slavery. Not to mention her head-on tackling of current world issues such as sexism, racism, religion vs. state, delicate politics, affordable basic necessities (healthcare, education, housing, safety, etc.) and much more.
While I am not trying to belittle young adult readers, I think this book is so much more than the protagonist’s age, and that some of this subject matter may be beyond the true grasp of the younger readers who may try to tackle it.
There was some minor repeat-shit-itis going on, especially when Kelsea was addressing her ability with a sword, how much her boobs hurt while wearing armor, and how plain she was. One thing I did appreciate was that there was none of the “I’m so plain” from her, and then “You are stunning” from men. The men call her plain, too.
I really think that I would have liked The Queen of the Tearling so much more if it was a Historical Fantasy or a true Fantasy without the Crossing element.