The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.
This novel took me four days to read and I wished it had taken me longer. When it ended I wanted more and fortunately I am going to get it because it is part 1 of a trilogy that i am sure will set the literary world on fire.
It reads like an historical/ adventure /fantasy but I can assure you it has a lot more depth than that.
The setting is The Tearling a new land that has resulted from a cataclysm in the past and has been settled by a utopian group from America in an event known as The Crossing. The Tearling is bounded by Cadare to the south and the Mordor like Mortmesne to the east. Some past technology has survived but not all, gunpowder for instance is a fringe technology.
The Tearling is ruled by a decadent and corrupt Regent following the murder of the inept Queen Elyssa. Before the queen’s death her daughter was smuggled out to be raised by a couple known as Barty and Carlin. They bring up the very plain girl named Kelsea in an enlightened yet tough environment.
In the mean time The Tearling has been overrun by the cruel and decadent Red Queen from Mortmesne who has left the Regent in charge. The Regent who is Kelsea’s uncle has hunted widely for her without success and now 19 years later it is time for her return.
On a day known to Barty and Carlin the Queen’s Guard led by hard man Carroll and equally hard man Mace arrive to take Kelsea back to the Capital City New London to claim her throne.
The action starts and it will mesmerise you the reader the way it did me.
Kelsea is a brilliant character. She is straightforward, decisive, tough, human and aware of her destiny and what she must do. As she and her Guard travel though The Tearling she sees the enormity of the task ahead of her but first she must assert herself as Queen and prove her worth to the Guard and to the people.
One of the central themes of this novel is leadership. What does it take to get people to follow you and attract loyalty. Other themes are the gap between rich and poor, corruption, the place of the church and religion and the deviance of human behaviour.
Kelsea and her main man Mace plus a host of astonishingly real characters drive you through this outstanding novel which at times will shock and horrify the reader. But you are on Kelsea’s side all the way.
Senior secondary and young adult. I can’t wait to read the next one.