This book is cleverly written with an intricate plot. We get the backstory on many characters, and each one is interesting (and often heartbreaking). These tales establish what it has been like to live in the Tear kingdom from many different points of view. Johnansen’s prose isn’t flowery, yet it is beautiful in its subtlety. Maybe it’s because of the humanity contained in her words, even when she covers the hard, sad parts of the human experience.
Point of View
This book is written in third person from a variety of points of view, predominantly Kelsea’s.
This book is set in the fictional kingdoms of Tear and Mortmesne, which mankind escaped to several hundred years ago in the Crossing (an exodus from America and possibly Europe).
– Kelsea Glynn/Raleigh – the nineteen year old Queen of the Tearling
– Lazarus (aka The Mace) – the man Kelsea chooses as her captain of the guard
– The Fetch – the handsome, mysterious criminal who seems to have much knowledge and power
– Pen – the man assigned as Kelsea’s personal bodyguard whom she trusts very much
– Father Tyler – the meek, bookish priest Kelsea chooses as her obligatory faith advisor
– The Red Queen – the evil queen of Mortmesne, the neighboring kingdom
– Arlen Thorne – the evil man who carried out the monthly shipments of Tear citizens to the Mort
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in The Queen of the Tearling?
Kelsea has been raised by Barty and Carlin. Her mother, Queen Elyssa, hid her far away from New London to keep her safe and ensure she receives an education fitting for her future role as queen. Kelsea’s mother dies at the young age of 28, and Kelsea does not know who her father is. When she turns 19, the queen’s guard arrives to escort her to her new home, the Keep. She is hesitant to say goodbye but knows her call is to rule. Kelsea opens a secret package from Carlin to discover a twin to the sapphire necklace she has worn around her neck since birth. The next morning, she awakes to the necklace glowing brilliantly, something it has never done before. Kelsea hopes to win the respect and loyalty of her guard.
On the way to New London, the team is attacked by Mort hawks and then a nefarious group. Kelsea and Lazarus get separated from the others. He fights valiantly but another group has to swoop in to rescue them. They are held prisoner by their saviors, the Fetch and his men. Lazarus is chained up and blindfolded. Kelsea is allowed more freedom and gets to know the men a little. She is drawn to the Fetch even though he is an infamous criminal.
One night Kelsea drinks mead and plays poker for the first time. The Fetch asks her about her politics should she be crowned as queen. The ensuing speech she makes impresses him. He allows Kelsea and Lazarus to leave and escorts them to the trail to New London. He tells them the best way to travel and asks Kelsea to wait to take off Lazarus’ blindfold until he is gone. The Fetch shows Kelsea he has the second sapphire necklace. He’ll return it should she become a worthy ruler. Lazarus is shocked to hear the Fetch allowed Kelsea to see his face. It is a mystery to everyone in the kingdom. Kelsea names Lazarus the captain of her guard.
The sights and sounds of New London, some delightful and some dreadful, are overwhelming to Kelsea. Her biggest shock is on the front lawn when she arrives at the Keep. The Tearling send 250 human slaves to Mortmesne each month to secure a shaky peace treaty. Kelsea orders the cages opened, the people returned to their families, the cages burned, and all shipments stopped permanently. In so doing, she earns the loyalty of the Tearling. The Fetch observes all of this anonymously.
Kelsea is attacked by her Uncle Thomas’ men at her crowning. She’s stabbed, but her guard prevails. She is then crowned by Priest Tyler (a meek priest, as she requested). Lazarus has all of Thomas’ belongings confiscated and his women freed. Kelsea gives her uncle one week to vacate the Keep. She keeps many of the kingdom’s mistreated women in the employ of the palace. Her uncle’s favorite lady, Margeurite, is wonderful with children. Andalie becomes Kelsea’s personal lady’s maid. Kelsea realizes she shared a vision with Andalie before they met. Kelsea thinks she’s a seer because she can anticipate Kelsea’s needs before she asks.
The holy father asks Priest Tyler to be a spy if he is chosen as the queen’s faith counsel. Thorne solicits Javel, a gate guard, to let someone pass by the gate without asking questions. In exchange, Thorne will get his wife Allie back (who was shipped to Mortmesne years ago).
The Red Queen is wondering why her shipment is late. She has some sort of magical fountain of youth but is having headaches.
Thomas appeals to Kelsea to let him stay as a royal advisor in exchange for information about her mother and the Red Queen. Kelsea refuses. Lazarus suggests a bookie named Arliss as Kelsea’s Royal Treasurer. She agrees and likes the rough old fellow.
Someone sneaks through the castle passageways to steal Kelsea’s necklace and kidnap or kill her while she’s in the bathtub. Her necklace somehow kills him and saves her. Lazarus thinks it was an inside job. A guard suggests a gatekeeper had to be in on it, too.
Lazarus is too busy to be Kelsea’s personal guard, so Pen is assigned. Kelsea begins to train in swordsmanship and needs to get in shape to be effective. Lazarus surprises Kelsea by bringing Carlin’s large book collection to the palace.
Kelsea chooses Priest Tyler as her faith counsel, which pleases Tyler when he sees her library. She tells him they can share books. Kelsea wishes she was beautiful like Marguerite. She especially wishes to be pretty for the Fetch, who called her too plain for his taste.
Kelsea has a vision of the Red Queen’s modern city, her palace, and an army encampment. She realizes the Mort army has been mobilized. Kelsea plans to evacuate the border villages and have the armies secure the border and the Mort road.
Thorne has gathered Javel and several others to launch a new plan since the assassination attempt on the queen failed.
Thomas and a few men are traveling to Mortmesne. The Fetch murders all of Thomas’ men. He promises Thomas a quick death for information. Thomas agrees if the Fetch will reveal his face. Thomas is shocked to see he is someone thought long dead. Thomas tells the Fetch the truth on everything he can think of. It’s unclear whether he tells the Fetch who Kelsea’s father is, a fact which he has long kept from the Red Queen, the Tearling, and the Mort.
Kelsea holds audience with her subjects at Lazarus’s request. She doesn’t like most of the nobles she meets. Borwen comes asking for the return of Andalie and their children. Kelsea refuses but says Andalie can return of her own free will. Andalie says she will never. Lady Andrews comes to ask Kelsea to re-think the halted shipments to Mortmesne. When everyone is gone, Kelsea asked Lazarus if he has been able to locate Barty and Carlin yet. He hasn’t. She can tell there’s more to it than that, but he won’t elaborate.
Pen tells Kelsea Borwen abused young girls, including his daughters. For some reason, Andalie would not let anyone harm him for it. No one knows why, and no one knows her background except she’s half Mort.
Kelsea has a dream of the Caden waking Tearling women and children in the middle of the night to put them in cages to ship to Mortmesne. She knows it’s a vision. She screams in real life and is shaken awake by Pen. She wants to leave immediately to save them. Andalie confirms her vision, but Lazarus and Pen don’t think they should go. Her necklace flares blue, and her anger throws them off of her. They agree to go. Andalie cuts her hair so she can disguise herself as a soldier as she travels with her guard.
Kelsea can feel her necklace pulling her along in the right direction and making her feel sick if they veer off the correct path. Lazarus wants her to remove it. When she does, she gets pale and feels drained. So she wears it, and they reluctantly follow her lead. Kelsea is furious with her guard except for Mhurn, the perpetually tired looking one who believes her for some reason.
After several days’ journey, a guard spots the cages approaching the Argive Pass. Kelsea’s guard is surprised. They must catch the party before they connect with Mort soldiers on the other side of the pass.
Javel is a part of the diverse group Thorne put together for the cage transport. Javel didn’t agree with the rough handling of the women they captured as they raided villages along the way. Javel worries about what Allie has had to endure all these years. The mules begin to move too slowly for Thorne’s liking.
Kelsea and her guard approach Thorne’s troop at the beginning of the pass. They surround their encampment and silently move in. The archers pick off four men and the others begin to attack. Kelsea stays back and hears the fight. She sees silhouettes in the distance and recognizes one, the Fetch. They are surprised to see each other tracking the same criminal. Kelsea has earned the Fetch’s respect. He returns the other necklace to her. He commences his fight with Thorne’s men.
When Kelsea puts the second necklace on, she immediately feels an electricity and sees a flash of black buildings on a white skyline. The two jewels together glow so brightly that it shows through her dark uniform. She feels energy and foreboding in her chest. Thorne sets one cage of women on fire, and Kelsea races toward it without thinking, her path lit by her blazing necklaces.
Javel sees the women burning alive, finds an ax, and starts whacking on the wood. He sees a blazing blue light. It kills Kelsea’s enemies as they approach with just a thought from her. She thinks how she would give anything to save these women. The jewels explode with a current and with blue light that fills the pass. Everyone and everything freezes. Kelsea feels immense power rolling through her. She knows they need water to put the fire out. The world around her restarts and torrents of water fall from the sky.
The Red Queen is worried about Kelsea (and who her father is) and is becoming absentminded with her duties. She contemplates how to placate her citizens, who are growing restless without the shipment of Tearling servants. She notices a storm with blue lightning near the pass at the Tearling border. She is scared. She sacrifices a slave boy to summon a creature for answers. He tells her not to harm the Tearling Queen or invade the Tear. He say if she harms the Queen she’ll experience his wrath.
Kelsea is stuck in a semi-conscious state and can hear Lazarus and Pen worried about her. She forces herself awake. They tell her how everything played out in the pass. She hears about the deaths from their number and the capture of Javel. She orders Javel to her prisons instead of being executed. She finds out their traitor is Mhurn. She discovers his heroine addiction and asks him to tell them his full story, which no one has heard. It’s a sad, genuine story, but he still has to be executed for treason. Kelsea does it herself.
They start their journey home, following the caravan of cages from a distance to make sure everyone makes it safely. Kelsea thinks how her jewels have helped her but wonders what their power will do to her. Merritt, one of the Caden, rides up on their party. He tells Kelsea the Caden no longer seek her death. His young son is with him. He says he has Kelsea to thank that he’s still alive. He will return the favor by never harming her. He tells her how to get a message to him should she need to.
How did The Queen of the Tearling end?
The night before they return home, Kelsea can’t sleep. She finds Lazarus sitting on the edge of the camp. He tells her he wants to resign. She won’t accept this but says she’ll kill him if he ever disobeys an order again. She says they must go home to prepare for war and free the captured Tearling. She mentions a quote from Carlin, and Lazarus admits her foster parents are dead. They laced their own tea with cyanide as soon as Kelsea left so they could never be used against her for information or ransom. Lazarus is the one who brought Kelsea to them as a baby and tells her how devoted they were to her from the start. He heard Carlin told Barty to be the loving one so she could be the harsh one because Kelsea needed a little of each.
Kelsea and Priest Tyler sit in the palace copying books as scribes. He tells her the holy father is dying. He warns her the frontrunner for his replacement is vicious. Lazarus interrupts them to show Kelsea something from the balcony. Huge crowds have assembled to see her. In their center is her uncle’s head on a pike, a gift from the Fetch. Lazarus prompts her to make some type of an announcement as a gift to the crowd. She announces from this day forward she will be a Glynn instead of a Raleigh, in honor of her adoptive parents. They roar their approval. They love her, and she loves them.
There you go! That’s what happened in The Queen of the Tearling, the first book in this series. The Fate of the Tearling, book 3, is set to be released November 29th!
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