Monday, July 7, 2014

Magic and Chaos: The Queen of the Tearling Review

*An eARC was kindly provided by Harper via Edelweiss*

I first heard of this book earlier in the year, but I never really paid attention to it. Not until this summer, when the hype it was receiving (both good and bad) captured my interest in it again. I'm honestly unsure how to rate this one, because while I had a few problems with it, I loved it. And I thought it would become a new favorite. But my expectations were so high that I felt a little disappointed with the overall delivery of the story.

Rating: 4 Stars!
The characters were fairly simple creatures, most living in a world of black and white, right and wrong, moral and immoral. A code of honor broken is sentenced to death. A queen who makes a daring decision has to face the consequences of her actions. Loyalty can't be bought but won with respect. And there is no room in this world for weakness.

But Kelsea Raleigh Glynn does not think in terms of black and white. Her character is multifaceted but not complex. She resilient, emotional, determined to lead her people and right the wrongs of the past. But she also rules more with her heart, and she's a little bit reckless. I loved that about her, though. Kelsea has spent her whole life in isolation, and then on her nineteenth birthday, she's summoned to lead a kingdom she knows very little about. She's too young for this responsibility, and although she makes good choices, she's still learning. She's constantly tested, and she proves over and over again how strong she is and that she won't back down from anything. But she did have her moments, ones where I rolled my eyes and wanted to smack her. Looks are important to her (she's constantly aware of her plainness), and she sometimes dives headfirst into situations without thinking about the consequences. Sometimes I wondered how she survived this long, but then I thought about her unfailing loyalty and courage, and I dismissed those flaws. After all, if characters don't have flaws, they don't feel real to me.

There were so many secondary characters, it was almost hard to keep them straight. A few of them are nothing more than props on a stage; good or evil, they can't be both. Her uncle, the lecherous, conniving bastard. The other players in a deadly game of war against her. None of them were more than what they appeared to be; traitors to the Queen. But the Queen's Guard each had their own distinct trademarks, though it took me awhile to tell them apart. My favorites were Pen, Coryn, Dyer, and of course, the Mace. Though they felt a little one-dimensional, I still felt like I knew them well enough. More so than I thought because I was able to determine who was the traitor in their closely guarded group. 

Then there was the Fetch and his merry band of thieves (and murderers). The Fetch is an intriguing character who has a story that I want to know. I felt that the subplot with him was more of a setup for the sequel in this book. I think he'll play a larger role in the series, and there might even be a romance between him and Kelsea. And I think I would definitely be okay with that. ;)

The plot, though, was both one of the strongest points of this book and the weakness. In the beginning, I felt bogged down with information and history. It took me several rereads of paragraphs before I was finally able to grasp a (somewhat) clear picture of the Tearling, Mortmesne, and the elusive "Crossing." I still don't understand what it is and how it happened. This book reads like an historical fantasy, yet it's a cross between the Middle Ages and a post-apocalyptic adventure. I'm unsure what genre it is, and I wish we'd had just a bit more history on what happened in the Crossing. Oh, and then there was the elusive answer to the question that everyone wants to know: Who is the father? It's a question that holds the key to everything, and I have theories on it. I can't wait to test them out in the sequel.

But once I was through the thick fog of information in the beginning, I started to really enjoy the story. I was soon lost in a world full of danger at every turn and secrets that no one wants to share. As Kelsea navigates a kingdom that's slowly losing its fight and hope, she loses her fear and finds the courage to help her people. And in turn, she starts to make others believe in her, too. She'll restore her kingdom to its glory, or she'll die trying. She'll have to deal with traitors, death threats, close calls, and people constantly underestimating her, but she'll do it. She has to, and she won't stop until everyone is safe.

But my least favorite part of this book was the PACING. It was so slow! It took me over eight hours to read, which is not normal for me with this length of book. Also, the switching of POVs gave me whiplash sometimes because they were so sudden. But they did bring out a few different (and important) subplots that I'm sure the author will explore in the sequel. I definitely want to know more about the Red Queen. She's painted as a villain, but I have a feeling she's so much more than that.

Overall, The Queen of the Tearling was a strong high fantasy with a heroine who doesn't only make you want to cheer for her but makes you believe that she will restore the balance and save her kingdom. With deception, cunning characters, and people who will do whatever it takes to kill her, this book explores the deepest parts of humanity and makes you question whether life really is so simple as right or wrong.  


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