Book review: The Queen of the Tearling

Erika JohansenNeither when I chose this book to review, nor when I started reading it, did I know that this was the next best thing. That David Heyman [producer of the Harry Potter films] and Emma Watson [Hermione] are already in pre-production with the film for Warner Brothers. That the author Erika Johansen signed a gazillion dollar deal for the seven-book series. I didn’t know. And I loved it.

It’s a ripping adventure story which feels like a medieval tale except for the occasional references to plastic surgery, Harry Potter and mascara. For a debut, it is skilfully handled. This is a dystopian society, post-something [an un-named event] which caused people to feel their homeland [an un-named country] in The Crossing [across an ocean, as a boat was lost] to their new land of the Tearling [on an unspecified continent]. Behind them they left science, books, medicine, education, art, television, you name it they left it behind. They fight with knives and swords.

Into this context is thrown a 19-year old girl, raised in secrecy by an elderly couple in rural seclusion. She must become queen of her mother’s nation or it will be lost to the evil ruler of the neighbouring state. Kelsea Glynn had a studious childhood, learning history, mathematics, languages, and how to trap and skin a rabbit. She reads a book a day [including The Lord of the Rings], not something your usual heroine does. Add treachery, slavery, corruption, prostitution, child exploitation, and all sorts of other dastardly deeds, and you will see why this is a page turner. Kelsea, the girl-turned-Queen is thrown into the middle of this and expected to fail.

But she doesn’t.

Erika Johansen

[photo: Cultura/Corbis]

There is more to this than just a thriller, the world of the Tearling has been meticulously constructed by Erika Johansen [above] with its own history, myths and customs. It has the makings of a classic fantasy series. I just want to know when book two will be published.

To watch the official book trailer for The Queen of the Tearling, click here.
‘I wrote Kelsea for women who wanted a heroine like themselves’ says Erika Johansen. To watch the interview on You Tube, click here.
To read more about plans for the film, read this report from The Guardian.

If you like this, try:-
‘The Magicians’ by Lev Grossman
‘The Quick’ by Lauren Owen
‘In Ark’ by Lisa Devaney

‘The Queen of the Tearling’ by Erika Johansen, Tearling #1 [UK: Bantam Press] Buy now

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen #books via @SandraDanby


  1. I’m editing a fantasy series right now, there are some similarities to your summary in broad terms — young man destined to rule but doesn’t know it, neighbouring country taking over, run by despot etc —but otherwise it’s a different tale. I think it’s interesting to see what people can do with fantasy. A bit like romance, it’s not my preferred genre, but if I read a good one eg Tolkien, Pullman, C S Lewis, I am quite entranced. So I think it’s nice to find good new creative authors who manage to produce new and different fantasy tales.

  2. I am often bored by this genre as it is so often evocative of the two masters – JK and JRR! This one sounds original. I will consider it. Thanks for a heartfelt review.

    • I know what you mean, but this is better than the rest out there. It’s not literary, but is a well-researched, thoughful read, 🙂 SD