Friday, January 03, 2014

2014 book 5

Erika Johansen's Queen of the Tearling
When a book gets a ton of buzz--which this has been doing for months now, when it and its sequels were sold for seven figures and then optioned into a movie set to star Emma Watson--it can be hard for it to live up to the hype. Let me say: it surpasses the hype. Johansen's writing is amazingly accomplished and assured, especially for a first novel (apparently she's a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop), and her characters are really powerful and compelling. I can't comment on whether this is a "female Game of Thrones," as other people have said, never having read those books, but it is a strong epic fantasy with a lot going on told from several different perspectives. (It definitely has less rape than those books apparently do, though there is some offscreen implied rape.) It actually reminds me a bit of Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns books, at least in terms of a young woman learning and growing and coming into her power--though it is really heads and tails above those (and I loved those books!), and isn't YA. Interestingly, while the setting reads like a typical medieval fantasy, it's quickly revealed that it actually takes place in the FUTURE, adding an interesting nuance to everything.

And I haven't even started talking about the plot or the characters! Our protagonist, the slightly unfortunately named Kelsea, is a nineteen-year-old heir to a throne, raised in hiding with little knowledge of her kingdom's recent history or her mother's death (though she is otherwise well-educated). Now it's time to claim her crown--only just about everyone is determined to stop that from happening, by lethal means. Meanwhile, the next kingdom over has been ruled by the Red Queen for over a hundred years, and she's pretty gung-ho on colonizing everyone else. Tons of action, political machinations, and character growth follow. There is also a hot and mysterious thief. (But, interestingly, no romance, really.) Kelsea is also a book nerd, so there are lots of literary references that caused me plenty of delight. I really loved this and can't wait to see where the series goes. I can't think of an epic fantasy book that has pleased me more. A.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in July.

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