Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Review - Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #2
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 4 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Rating: 2/5 stars
Darkness never dies. 
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. 
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
I don’t know why I decided to read this book. Well, I do, but I probably shouldn’t have. I knew going into it that the likelihood of it impressing me was miniscule. But when I saw it sitting pretty on the shelf at the library, I just couldn’t resist grabbing it and Ruin and Rising. I really regret that spur of the moment decision.

The pacing in Siege and Storm is wildly inconsistent. The first two or three chapters move at a break-neck speed (I almost felt like I was getting story whiplash it was going so quickly) and then about a third of the way through the book it takes a serious nosedive into epic slowness. The scenes on the Hummingbird just didn’t work for me. I think what got me about this section of the book is that there is just so much monotonous travelling going on. There just wasn’t much to keep my interest. The pace picked up again toward the end of the book with a very sudden and abrupt battle that I was about as prepared for as Alina and company were. The last quarter of the book was SO DISAPPOINTING to me. It got my hopes up that a certain twist was in store and that I’d get to see more of the Alina I actually find interesting, but alas, it was not to be. Siege and Storm was, in so many ways, a series of let downs.

The biggest qualm I have with this book is the characters. As you may know, I am very much a character reader. I don’t have to necessarily like a character, but if I don’t feel any connection to the characters there is zero chance I will enjoy the book. This is one of those books where I just can’t get on the same emotional level as any of the characters. Alina has moments when I think she’s totally awesome, but then she lets her guilt take over and gets very self-sanctimonious and I just have no patience for that. Mal is a complete write-off as a character. He’s so freaking boring. I’m two books in and literally the only thing I know about Mal is that he’s a good tracker. Not because he works really hard at it, he just is. Also, he’s really attractive and all of the ladies fawn over him. Lame. I have never seen any chemistry between Alina and Mal, especially compared to the chemistry she has with both the Darkling and Nicolai/Sturmhond. Sure, the chemistry she shares with them are very different, but at least there’s something. I can honestly say that I prefer the side of Alina we see when she’s around the Darkling to when she’s with Mal. When Alina is around Mal she becomes an insecure mess. The Darkling makes her feel powerful. Be honest, which would you prefer?

I was quite happy to meet Sturmhond in Siege and Storm. He’s definitely my favourite of the three main men in Alina’s life. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a charmer. He also seems a bit more complex than Mal and the Darkling. Where there is a clear indication of good versus evil when it comes to Mal and the Darkling, Sturmhond occupies the grey space in between and I’m into that.

One other niggling thing that I noticed while reading Siege and Storm is the way that Alina perceives other women. It is so unhealthy and there is a vast amount of internalised misogyny clouding her judgement. It’s particularly evident in the way that she interacts with Zoya. Every time Zoya is mentioned, some aspect of her appearance is noted. She is constantly described as beautiful and threatening, and I find it rather disconcerting. The only character who isn’t looked down upon for her beauty is Genya, and we all know what happens to her by the end of the book. It just struck me as odd that all of the men in the book are praised for being good looking, yet Alina is constantly comparing herself to other women and simultaneously putting down herself for not being pretty enough and them for being too pretty.

Because I’m already two thirds of the way through the series, I’ve decided to read Ruin and Rising, just to see how everything turns out. I figure I’ve already invested so much time and energy into this trilogy that I might as well see it through to the bitter end. I’ve read about 20 pages and so far I’m even less impressed with book 3 than I was with book 2. How promising… Hopefully things will turn around enough in the next 400 pages to make me not regret ever bothering with this series. If not, I probably won’t be reading whatever Leigh Bardugo comes up with next. It’s not you, Leigh. It’s me.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

TTT - Books for Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Top Ten Books for Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels

Jellicoe Road
Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
Wanderlove - Kirsten Hubbard
Like Mandarin
Like Mandarin - Kirsten Hubbard
Y - Marjorie Celona
Salvage - Alexandra Duncan
Ask the Passengers
Ask the Passengers - A.S. King
Second Chance Summer
Second Chance Summer - Morgan Matson
I Capture the Castle
I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
A Brief History of Montmaray (The Montmaray Journals, #1)
A Brief History of Montmaray - Michelle Cooper

Monday, 6 October 2014

Review - Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #2
Published by Bloomsbury on August 27 2013
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 420
Rating: 4/5 stars
From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil. 
Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart. 
Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie...and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.
Crown of Midnight excelled in almost all of the places where Throne of Glass failed, and it definitely earned the extra star. I’m so glad to have been able to read Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight back to back, because if I hadn’t had Crown of Midnight on hand right after finishing Throne of Glass, I may never have bothered to read it. That said, it was so worth reading.

As you probably know, I’m a busy university student. I’m doing a double major in English and Women’s Studies, and I started this book right around the time that the fall semester (AKA the beginning of my fourth year of university) began. Let me tell you, I have had zero time for reading thus far this semester. I have managed to read all of three books in the three weeks. Over the summer, I read an average of about 2.5 books per week. Clearly, that has slowed down. The point that I’m getting at here is that amidst all of the craziness of getting back into the swing of studying nonstop, I managed to read this book in less than four days. I know that may not sound like much, but that’s a big deal right now.

This book definitely raised the stakes from Throne of Glass. It was on a higher level on both a political plane and an emotional one. I’m not ashamed to admit that it made me shed a tear or two. I got a little weepy. The character development shown in Crown of Midnight surpasses anything I could ever wish for. Celaena grows tremendously over the course of the book, and you can see her thought processes changing and she slowly learns to listen to and trust the people she cares about.

I’m going to keep this review short because I simply don’t know how to gush over this book without releasing all of the spoilers, but I am really impressed with Maas’s progression as a writer and as a storyteller. Where Throne of Glass often lacked a certain finesse, Crown of Midnight was practically flawless in execution. It flowed wonderfully, the pacing consistent and quick-moving, and the slow unraveling of the mysteries was tantalizing in a way that was completely unmatched by the smaller scale mysteries of the first book. I’m so excited to see where this story will go in Heir of Fire (which I need to get my hands on NOW). I’d also really like to read The Assassin’s Blade, though I’m typically not a fan of prequels or add-in short stories/novellas. I’ve heard great things about these ones, and I might just order the whole series (to date) on my next pay day.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Review - Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Published by Bloomsbury on August 7 2012
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 404
Rating: 3/5 stars
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.  
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.  
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. 
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
I’ve been hearing about the Throne of Glass series all over the blogosphere for as long as I can remember (basically since 2012, when it was published), but I never got into it. Why, I have no idea, considering it is full of things I love, namely badass assassins and political fantasy. Yes please. However, I have had to take this book out of the library on three separate occasions before I was finally able to get past the first fifty pages. I just wasn’t feeling it.

I think that this book suffers from a rather weak opening, but it definitely builds as the book progresses. I grew to really like Celaena – it’s a nice change to see a YA protagonist who isn’t self-deprecating and is fully aware of how amazing she is. Celaena has her flaws, but that’s what makes her so dynamic and interesting to read about. I was also a humungous fan of the fledgling friendship between Celaena and Nehemia. I think that friendship between girls in YA is incredibly important and it was so refreshing to see that come about on the pages of Throne of Glass. Honestly, I’m quite enamoured with Nehemia all on her own; she’s a seriously ballsy lady.

There is what might be considered a love triangle in this book, which I wasn’t particularly pleased with. There’s some killer romantic/sexual tension between Celaena and the captain of the guard, Chaol, but there is also a weird romance between Celaena and the crown prince, Dorian, which I was less fond of. I do like the way that Celaena and Dorian’s relationship grew and changed over the course of the book, and I’m quite happy with where they left off at the end.

The one thing I found rather lacking in Throne of Glass was the action. It simply wasn’t as action-packed as I was expecting. There was a lot of reading and walking and running, but only a few real high stakes scenes stick out to me. I found that Celaena, for all her confidence regarding her abilities as an assassin, didn’t really do anything to live up to her reputation. She wasn’t as impressive as I wanted her to be. I also thought that the mystery wasn't as breath-taking and suspenseful as it should have been. I never worried for the safety of any of the main characters, nor was I particularly panicked to find out the identity of the murderer.

On the whole, Throne of Glass wasn’t a bad book, and it definitely had its interesting moments, but it wasn’t up to the standard I hold for fantasy books (by which I mean it wasn’t Froi of the Exiles calibre excellence). It was a decent introduction to the series, but I definitely think that things will improve as the tale progresses. The way that the first chapter or two were the shaky beginnings to this novel, I believe Throne of Glass stands as the shaky beginning to what will amount to an overall solid series.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Stacking the Shelves {2}

Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy, #1)Deadline (Newsflesh Trilogy, #2)Blackout (Newsflesh Trilogy, #3)Son of the Shadows (Sevenwaters, #2)
Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)Kushiel's Chosen (Phèdre's Trilogy, #2)Amy and Roger's Epic Detour
Feed - Mira Grant
Deadline - Mira Grant
Blackout - Mira Grant
Son of the Shadows - Juliet Marillier
Soulless - Gail Carriger
Kushiel's Chosen - Jacqueline Carey

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Something Strange and Deadly, #2)Strange and Ever After (Something Strange and Deadly, #3)
Dying to Know You
Siege & Storm - Leigh Bardugo
Ruin & Rising - Leigh Bardugo
Strange and Ever After - Susan Dennard
Dying to Know You - Aidan Chambers


The Melody of Light
Fashioning Fat - Amanda M. Czerniawski (thank you NYU Press!)
Plucked: A History of Hair Removal - Rebecca M. Herzig (thank you NYU Press!)
Maxine Wore Black - Nora Olsen (thank you Bold Strokes Books!)
Moon at Nine - Deborah Ellis (thank you Pajama Press!)
The Melody of Light - M.L. Rice (thank you Bold Strokes Books!)

Lips Touch: Three Times

Ruins (Partials Sequence, #3)
Bloodsucking Fiends (A Love Story, #1)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Review - Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter, #2)

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd
Series: The Madman’s Daughter #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28 2014
Genres: horror, historical fiction, young adult
Pages: 420
Rating: 3/5 stars
To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it. 
Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father's island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her. 
As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again. 
As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive. 
With inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is a tantalizing mystery about the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.
I probably shouldn’t have read this book.

I was drawn in by the near-pristine beauty of it at the library – I don’t often encounter library books that look brand new, and I was tricked by the prettiness. It’s too bad that the actual content of these books isn’t as great as their gorgeous covers.

I had high hopes for Her Dark Curiosity, though I’m not entirely sure why. I didn’t particularly enjoy The Madman’s Daughter, for a variety of reasons.  Namely, Juliet’s idiocy and the completely unnecessary love triangle. But I thought, maybe book two will be better. Maybe Juliet will start to use her brain and stop whining all the time and kick those stupid miserable boys to the curb. Also, I was under the (incorrect) assumption that 1/3 of said love triangle was dead, because I’m an idiot who indulges in wishful thinking.

But oh no. None of my hopes were answered by this book. I was delighted to find that this book was supposed to be loosely based on/inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’m a big fan. Unfortunately, they really meant loosely. There are a few elements of Jekyll and Hyde present, but it’s minimal. The reintroduction of the love interest who isn’t Montgomery (I want to say his name is William or Edward, because everyone in Victorian London was called William or Edward) wasn’t much of a shocker, and I honestly don’t think it even merits a spoiler tag. Let me know if you disagree, but it was pretty obvious, though I tried to convince myself otherwise in case sheer willpower prevented it from happening. Sigh. The love triangle really gets amped up in this book. Compared to Her Dark Curiosity, it is merely a slight annoyance in The Madman’s Daughter. There is just so much drama between Juliet and Montgomery and William-Edward and I don’t understand it at all because they’re both absolute dickheads! I’ll pass, thank you.

The ‘plot’ of Her Dark Curiosity is surprisingly sparse. I honestly don’t remember much of the plot that didn’t revolve around a) the love triangle, b) Juliet’s angst over her condition/finding a remedy, or c) further angst over William-Edward’s escalating murderous split personality disorder. I think the main problem I have with sympathizing with these plights is that I just completely disagree with everything that Juliet stands for. If I were in her shoes, William-Edward would be properly dead by now (and I would have zero desire to bring him back to life Frankenstein-style, thank you very much!). Oh! I remembered one other plot-y thing – Juliet discovers that she’s caught up in a big ol’ conspiracy and then (SPOILER) kills a bunch of people using electricity and lab creatures. She also scars her best (well, only) friend for life in the process, but who needs friends when you have Montgomery and William-Edward, right??

Given the nature of this review, it might be surprising that I gave this book three stars. I actually did enjoy certain parts of the book. I’m a big fan of Shepherd’s writing style. It is very descriptive without turning purple, and I think she really succeeds in creating a neo-Gothic novel, in style if not in form. I also really love Juliet’s dark side. She doesn’t let it out as often as I’d like, but I think that the fact that she has a serious violent streak is wonderful. I think that she could be a truly remarkable character if she just toned down the altruism a little bit. She reminds me a bit of Allie from Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden trilogy in that sense. She has the potential to be a total badass, but she is just too nice.

Considering how much grief this series has caused me, you’d think I’d back out and abstain from the likely torment of A Cold Legacy, but you would be wrong. I’ve already invested enough time in this series that I might as well see it through, right? Besides, maybe Frankenstein William-Edward will be less angsty than the current version. On a side note: how many times can this dude be killed off? WHY DON’T YOU JUST TAKE THE HINT AND STAY DEAD? NOBODY LIKES YOU. I am interested to see the setting shift once again, this time from urban London to the Scottish countryside. I think that setting is definitely one of Shepherd’s strong suits.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

TTT - On My Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR
Ruins (Partials Sequence, #3)
Ruins - Dan Wells
I mostly just need to finish this trilogy so that I can strike it from my list. I did really enjoy the first two books, so hopefully Ruins will end the series on a good note. I have this one out of the library at the moment, so it should get read in the near future.
Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle, #1)
Rebel Belle - Rachel Hawkins
I greatly enjoyed Hawkins' Hex Hall books, so I've been looking forward to Rebel Belle for ages. I finally got it from the library, so I'll be getting to this one soon as well. I hope.
Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly, #1)
I've heard really good things about this series, and Sarah J. Maas mentions Dennard in all of her acknowledgements, so I feel like I need to get onto this book. It's another library book. I've read a lot of books set in Victorian London recently, so I'm not too sure that I'm ready for another one quite yet.
The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)
The Diviners - Libba Bray
I'm a huge fan of everything Libba Bray does and am rather ashamed that I haven't read this already. I bought a copy from the used bookstore by my house a few weeks ago and am greatly anticipating picking it up when I get the chance.
Everything Leads to You
I read the first twenty-odd pages of this right after purchasing it, but then it kind of fell by the wayside because of all of the library books that took precedence. I'm still really excited to read this. I've heard that it's excellent and I loved what I read earlier.
I'll Give You the Sun
I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
Words cannot express how badly I want this book. I need this book in my life. I loved The Sky Is Everywhere and have been eagerly anticipating whatever Nelson followed it up with and now that follow up is out and IT NEEDS TO BE IN MY HANDS RIGHT THIS SECOND.
A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)
A Thousand Pieces of You - Claudia Gray
I'm not sure what I'm more excited about, the breathtaking cover or the parallel universes. I really hope this book is all that I want it to be. I believe in you, book!
The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)
The Young Elites - Marie Lu
So I only ever read the first book in Marie Lu's Legend trilogy, but The Young Elites sounds far more my speed. It's basically a villain's origin story. And it's fantasy. What isn't to like?? The reviews that have been coming out lately have been quite favourable as well, which is nice.
Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)
Heir of Fire - Sarah J. Maas
I just finished the first two books in the Throne of Glass series and I'm kind of obsessed. They aren't the most innovative books I've ever read, but I'm so invested that I don't even care. I hope to order the series from The Book Depository (because they have my preferred covers in paperback!) in the near future.
Talon (Talon, #1)
Talon - Julie Kagawa
One word: dragons.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Review - Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters

Keeping You a Secret

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters
Series: Standalone
Published by Little, Brown and Company on May 4 2005
Genres: contemporary, young adult, LGBT
Pages: 250
Rating: 4/5
With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship? This moving love story between two girls is a worthy successor to Nancy Garden's classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind. With her characteristic humor and breezy style, Peters has captured the compelling emotions of young love.
As you may or may not have noticed, I read pretty much any and every lesbian YA novel that comes my way. Because I can. This one has been on my radar for years – I mean, Julie Anne Peters is a mainstay of queer YA contemporaries, and this is one of her more popular books. Possibly the most popular? I’m not too sure. Regardless, there is a distinctly familiar tone to this book that leads me to think that I may have read it in high school and completely forgotten doing so. It happens.

Keeping You a Secret isn’t the most creative book in the world, but it is an important book nonetheless. Given that it was published nearly ten years ago, I’m pretty impressed with it. I can’t say that I’d be pleased to read something with this plot if it were a new release, but I’ll get into that in a moment.

The main draw of Keeping You a Secret, in my opinion, is the relationships between its characters. To start out, we have the main character, Holland. Holland has a lot of very complicated relationships – her boyfriend, who feels more like an obligation than a pleasure; her friends, who are sometimes judgemental and with whom Holland doesn’t feel comfortable sharing her true feelings; her mom, newly remarried and suddenly preoccupied with a ‘new’ family; her stepsister, a Goth whom Holland just can’t relate to (not that she really wants to). What I really loved about this book was that it went beyond the conventions of a simple love story – while the blooming love between Holland and Cece takes center stage, there is much more going on in Holland’s life. She is constantly navigating how to manage her relationships without throwing things off balance.

Holland’s relationship with her mother is one of the best and hardest parts of this book. After a lot of sneaking around with Cece and trying to keep the lid on their relationship, Holland’s mother finds out in a not-so-ideal way. Her reaction is absolutely terrifying. Holland’s mom has the reaction that every gay child has nightmares about. It isn’t unexpected – upon meeting Cece for the first time, she demands that Holland stop being friends with her. Her homophobia isn’t well hidden, but it is still shocking to see how she treats her own daughter. Just thinking about it makes my eyes well up. I don’t want to give away the details, but Holland’s life is plunged into a low that most people cannot relate to. The sad truth is that Holland’s circumstances are all too common for LGBT youth with bigoted parents.

The issue I have with Keeping You a Secret is that it is very middle-of-the-road. I’ve read books worse, but I’ve also read many books that are much, much better. The writing is mediocre and simplistic, which is good for readability but bad for memorability. I was never completely immersed in the story, mostly due to the fact that it was very formulaic and clichéd in many ways. I also found Cece to be a rather two-dimensional love interest, which was off-putting and disappointing. As I said before, I think that this is a very important book, but there are better LGBT YA books out there (Malinda Lo’s books are marvellous, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth is wonderful, I’ve heard very great things about Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour, even Peters’ newest release Lies My Girlfriend Told Me sounds more innovative).

If like me you’re someone who devours every book about queer teenage girls that you can find, this one is worth reading, but if you’re less passionate about the subject, this might be one to skip.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Review - The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Published by Harper on July 8 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
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.
I’m glad to say that I didn’t hate this book as much as most of my fellow bloggers seem to, but it definitely wasn’t what it was pitched to be. I was lucky enough to know going into it that it wasn’t a straight-up fantasy, but a strange dystopian fantasy hybrid in which an event called The Crossing occurred, during which most modern “luxuries” a la medicine and electricity were lost. Now, what exactly the Crossing was is never explained in the nearly 500 pages of this book. I imagine it may be explained in subsequent books, but it was kind of a mind fuck.

There is some serious logic fail going on in this book. There is talk of other nations being capable of plastic surgery yet the Tearling doesn’t even have the most basic medicine. They don’t even have printing presses. It’s your basic quasi-medieval fantasy setting with a big ol’ FUCK YOU twist thrown in for good measure. And it doesn’t really work. The Queen of the Tearling would have been a thousand times more enjoyable if it wasn’t such a weird setting.
 kidding me
The characters leave a lot to be desired as well. Kelsea, the main character and incumbent Queen of the Tearling, is rash and impulsive. She doesn’t think things through, which is a terrible trait in a Queen. She talks about wanting to do the best for her kingdom, yet she doesn’t actually consider the consequences of her actions. For instance, when she learns about the crown-condoned slave trade between the Tearling and neighbouring kingdom Mortmesne, she immediately releases all of the prisoners, hires a bunch of them on as her personal staff, and burns the cages used to transport them. She doesn’t care that the Queen of Mortmesne is infinitely more powerful than she is and that she will be slightly insulted to discover her shipment of slaves has not been delivered. I agree that something had to be done to put a stop to the agreement between the Tearling and Mortmesne, but Kelsea’s solution was far from intelligent.

She is also very judgemental. She believes herself to be plain and unattractive (based on a glimpse of herself in a puddle when she was about fifteen) and is very insecure because of it. She takes extensive note of the appearances of everyone she meets and compares herself to them endlessly. There is one particularly offensive scene in which Kelsea mentally chastises an aging woman for believing herself to be beautiful. How dare this lady who is in her fifties or sixties feel confident in her own appearance??!! Kelsea also spends a lot of time thinking about how men don’t find her attractive, especially one outlaw she encounters twice. She is really hung up on this guy and how he once said that she wasn’t his type. I was glad to find that he only makes two appearances, as I really did appreciate how little romance came into play in this book. I can only imagine it will become a more central focus as the series progresses, because that’s usually how these things go.

Also, everyone in this book is completely incompetent when it comes to their jobs. Kelsea is a horrible queen, her head guard allows her to be stabbed in the back, an assassin manages to catch her unattended in the bath. It’s just a major clusterfuck and everyone deserves to be fired. There is also the issue of the climactic scene being resolved by Kelsea’s magical necklaces. I really don’t like when objects are the solutions to problems. It’s just too convenient. I’d much rather have the characters use their actual brains – they have them for a reason!

My final note is that I really wish this book had better representation of women. There are a handful of women gracing the pages, but they’re almost all disappointing. First there is Carlin, Kelsea’s cold and aloof guardian with whom Kelsea had a very strained relationship because Carlin didn’t feel like she could allow herself to show Kelsea love. WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF LOGIC??? Then there’s the evil queen of Mortmesne, known only as The Red Queen. She’s a stereotype if I’ve ever seen one – leaning heavily on magic and fear to control her kingdom, she is the epitome of the evil seductress. The most interesting female character is a beautiful young woman formerly “owned” by Kelsea’s gross uncle. Unfortunately she doesn’t play a very big role in the novel. I suppose I just wish Kelsea had a friend or a counsel or someone to bounce ideas off of aside from Mace. Whose job is to protect her, not to help her make political decisions.  

It may seem like I hated this book, but I didn’t. I liked the writing and I am interested to see what Johansen does with the strange combination of story elements she’s pulled together. It may have had it’s seriously dumb moments, but The Queen of the Tearling wasn’t all bad.