I am so happy that I read this book. Other than the Song of Ice and Fire series, I don’t typically read fantasy books even though I’ve always wanted to. I’ve never had one hold my attention, but this one had just enough magic, intrigue, politics, and drama to keep me engaged.
This has a medieval feel to it, but we get little hints throughout the narrative that this set in the future. From what I could glean, our present day is considered the Pre-Crossing, and then an event called The Crossing occurred, which led to the end of civilization as we know it.
We start with Kelsea Raleigh, who is heir to the throne of the Tearling. Kelsea’s mother, Queen Elyssa, senses danger and sends Kelsea away as a young child to be fostered by Barty and Carlin Glynn in a picturesque cottage outside of the capital city, New London. Queen Elyssa is murdered when Kelsea is just a toddler and Kelsea knows that she is the future queen. She is given a rigorous formal education by the steely spined Carlin while Barty showers Kelsea with affection and teaches her about things like plants and knife fighting. Kelsea must never be discovered because there are people in the kingdom who do not want her to claim her throne and are trying to assassinate her.
Kelsea’s proof that she is the future queen is borne on her arm and around her neck: she was branded with a burn the length of her forearm and always wears a beautiful sapphire necklace. When she is 19, members of her mother’s guard who remain loyal to the true rulers of the Tearling, arrive on horseback at the cottage to return her to her rightful home.
This journey and her early days of ruling are fraught with danger. She quickly learns that her uncle, acting as regent, is a selfish sycophant and has stood idle as the kingdom has suffered at the hands of the Red Queen, with which they have a treaty that demands a regular shipment of Tearling people to serve as slaves, prostitutes, and laborers in her own kingdom. She begins to learn things about her mother, who agreed to and signed the treaty, that lead her to believe that she wasn’t a very successful queen. Kelsea has to earn the respect and loyalty of her Queen’s Guard as well as the people of the kingdom.
Kelsea begins to learn the magic of her sapphire necklace as soon as she leaves the Glynn’s cottage – it glows and gives off heat when it tries to tell her something. Sounds kooky? Yes, but it works! And I totally want one of these necklaces. Each time the sapphire necklace was mentioned, I thought about the Princess Diana/Kate Middleton sapphire engagement ring. I have a hunch that the Tear is one of the British Isles – so I wonder if the author meant to make that allusion?
Similar to The Song of Ice and Fire, the author attempts to tell the narrative from different viewpoints. She succeeds in helping the reader understand other motives, yet doesn’t draw the same distinct pictures as George RR Martin. While reading this book, I was on the edge of my seat and couldn’t wait to find out what happened to the characters – the author sucked me right in and made me care about most of the characters.
I agree with the blurb on the book stating that it’s a mix of The Song of Ice and Fire and the Hunter Games (many people don’t). I believe that the author captured the badassery of Katniss and told the story in a way that was reminiscent of the Game of Thrones. So if you enjoyed either of those series, I think you might enjoy this one!