I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #2
Published by Harper, HarperCollins Publishers on June 9th 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.
But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.
Hello there! I come to you today as one of the members of the very small Camp Actually-I-Thought-The–Queen-of-the-Tearling-Was-Pretty-Awesome-Thank-You-Very-Much. We are few in number but steadfast in our devotion, often in the face of great adversity. As a representative of said camp, I am pleased to say that The Invasion of the Tearling was also quite awesome and while it did some things differently, I’m overall satisfied.
A quick disclaimer, if you are one of the people that didn’t like The Queen of the Tearling all that much and are wondering if this review will help you decide whether or not to continue, I can’t help you. While I’m fully aware the first book wasn’t perfect, I don’t totally understand why everyone hated it so much (you don’t have to explain it to me, in this instance I am cool with my ignorance), so I can’t tell you if most of the issues have been addressed. When I say this book is quite awesome I mean I liked it like I liked the first one so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
One thing I do recall people mentioning quite a bit was that the world-building is full of holes and how exactly is a post-apocalyptic future society supposed to be a medieval fantasy (I decided early on in QotT I was going to pretend it was full fantasy and that worked out pretty well for me). This is sort of addressed in The Invasion of the Tearling in that we find out what the Crossing was and a bit of the run up to it. I say sort of addressed because the whole magic bit is a ‘I don’t know, my family’s always been able to do this no one really knows why’ situation and I don’t know if that’s ever going to change. To be honest, I’m cool with that because I’m super into the idea that there actually is magic in the world, it’s just that most people don’t realize/recognize/have it.
This chapter of the story is told in alternating timelines. Most of the book takes place in the Tearling/Mortmesne with Kelsea and crew but those bits are interspersed with sections depicting pre-Crossing America told through the POV of a woman named Lily. I am kind of on the fence about my Lily bit feelings. On the one hand, it was super creepy to see the America before the Crossing mostly because I can EASILY see how we’re on our way there. On the other hand, Lily’s in a shit situation and these parts feature some incredibly disturbing depictions of spousal abuse and rape. While I’m not going to accuse the abuse and rape of being in the book solely for shock value, there were about 400 different ways Lily’s life could’ve been miserable and I’m emphatically over these particular ones becoming a go-to fallback shorthand for NO YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HER LIFE IS TERRIBLE. That said, I ultimately got into Lily’s story mostly because I ended up deeply feeling for her. She starts out incredibly sheltered and so (annoyingly) deep in denial I don’t think she’d seen the sky in years and over the course of the book comes into her own and remembers how to be strong.
Back in the Tearling, Kelsea is kind of up shit’s creek. The Mort army is closing in and the Tears have basically no army, no weapons, no allies and no resources. Everyone is taking this very well and is not stressed or desperately freaking out at all. I continue to love how Kelsea is what you could call an unlikeable character. When I say unlikeable, I don’t mean defiantly so in a so-badass-she-has-no-time-for-your-shit and is powered by the force of her rage like, oh, say, Nyx from Cruel Beauty (though Kelsea definitely has no time for your shit). Kelsea is more of the obstinate, occasionally whiny, occasionally selfish and petty, deeply cranky, thoroughly real person kind of unlikeable and in a strange turn of events, I love that about her. It made her deeply believable to me because I’m also all of those things. Personally relating to an MC isn’t necessarily a requirement for me when reading, but it never hurts. There was a weird subplot going on with some sort of magically-induced appearance shift happening with Kelsea and I’m still not sure about the why of it all, but hopefully that will be explained in the next book.
The Mace continues to be the greatest thing about this series. Please send me all the grumpy, sarcastic, looming warrior mentor types for I love them so very much. We finally find out his backstory and it’s predictably tragic. He continues to call Kelsea out on her shit and it’s awesome. He also ends up taking a small, violent, angry girl child under his wing and begins training her to be a Queen’s Guard as an outlet for her rage and it’s every bit as endearing as it sounds. There’s also this super adorable sub sub sub plot thing happening with him and the priest and it makes my heart go all squashy and basically the Mace is the fucking best and I love him unreasonable amounts.
Another thing I super loved was when my ship set sail. I was nursing a bit of a crackship in The Queen of the Tearling and I didn’t think it would ever come into play. All narrative signs pointed elsewhere and I’d resigned myself to being quietly disappointed AND THEN MY LITTLE CRACKSHIP TOOK OFF. Granted, only about 4% of this book is focused on romance but 3.25% is my ship and I’m not going to lie, I started making high pitched kettle whistle noises when it happened. If you hadn’t picked up on it, I have no intention of telling you who it is so if you were secretly shipping it as well you can experience the same shock and joy I did.
As far as plotting goes, it’s not the most active of books. There’s an awful lot of planning and debating but the alternating timelines and occasional glimpses of the happenings within Mortmesne kept the pacing from ever lagging too much for me. In addition to the abuse and rape I mentioned earlier, I would also add a trigger warning for self harm (not graphic, but present) and one super fucked up homophobia-driven violence scene. The Invasion of the Tearling gets kind of dark, definitely darker than I remember The Queen of the Tearling being (my memory is incredibly faulty, do not take my word for it).
Overall, my The Invasion of the Tearling feelings are pretty similar to my The Queen of the Tearling feelings, not a perfect book but inexplicably engaging in a way that I really enjoy. If I had to guess, I think existing fans of the series (who aren’t put off by the triggering stuff mentioned above) will enjoy it but probably unlikely to convince people who didn’t like the first book.