Kelsea Glynn is reluctant Queen of the Tearling, torn from her isolated upbringing to rule the fractured, downtrodden once-utopia of Tearling. As she attempts to right the hideous wrongs of her society she must also face the angered neighbouring Red Queen with all her powers, win the people to her, master her anger and work out what the jewels she carries are and what the strange visions that plague her mean for her nation…
Okay so I was trying to summarise two books there, hence how stuffed that synopsis is! Basically like a snob for a long time I didn’t want to read this because the heroine is called Kelsea. I mean, Kelsea. In what seems a medieval setting? But Emma Watson’s endorsement convinced me because I think she’s excellent. And I was hooked!!! And the name thing does actually make sense, for anyone else who might initially be put off by that…
This book was gripping and exciting from the start. The action, intrigue and drama never let off, and I was drawn in completely. The mystery of this land that seems related to our world but different in strange ways is captivating, as is Kelsea’s journey through the challenges and characters that face her. It’s a rollercoaster of danger, high emotion and drama and thoroughly enjoyable for it!
In the character of Kelsea comes up my conundrum with this book however. She’s 17, I think, and thinks and acts this age. Which would lead you to think this is a YA book, and it certainly seems marketed as such. But, especially moving into the second book, there are scenes that I do not want my 15 year old sister to read. Of course, teenagers are probably more impervious to these things than adults, and Zoe scorns my concern. But still. Who is this book for? Certainly for the film versions they will have to change things if they want a lower rating.
Nevertheless, it is intriguing to see a fantasy novel engage with sex and violence in a way that doesn’t seem indulgent; as many seem to be. Here we see scenes of domestic and sexual violence that are condemned and a product of the old society that must be changed. And the ‘good’ side too is more complex than simply pure: Kelsea struggles with her heritage, with anger, and temptations of power and her office. But it is still there, and there is still a sense of reaching for something that could be wonderful, rather than revelling in a chaotic society as many fantasies seem to.
The other challenge I can see is the scale. I think it’s going to be a three book series, and as in many, the story and stakes must get significantly higher and the ideas larger as the story goes onward. But looking at it from this perspective it is hard to see how this could ever resolve or come together. Which is at the same time exciting – because it could be amazing – and scary. What if it becomes ridiculous? Tries to tie things together too neatly? Or too quickly? So far I feel like I’m in the hands of a good storyteller so I hold out hope for book three, but we shall see!
These books were very gripping, and I am interested to see what is coming next and to see the film!! If you’ve been wondering whether to read it do – I imagine it will be both exactly what you expect and a lot more than that.