After years of being hidden away for her safety, Princess Kelsea Glynn returns to the Tearling and finds her people and kingdom plunged into disparity. For years the tyrannical Red Queen of the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne has been forcing the Tearling's people into a slave lottery and carting off every profitable good, all with the blessing of the Regent, Kelsea's uncle and incumbent ruler. Having decided her reign will not be that of a passive figurehead, Kelsea chooses to challenge the atrocities bestowed on her kingdom and become a ruler worthy of her citizens. With Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen creates a character and story that combines the strength and determination of Elizabeth Moon's classic fantasy heroine Paksenarrion (The Deed of Paksenarrion), with a vulnerability that makes Kelsea's story a deeply compelling and engaging addition to the fantasy genre. --DANIELLE'S STAFF PICKS
As soon as I started The Queen of the Tearling, I could tell this was going to be a big one. In fact, I kept looking up Erika Johansen because I had a hard time believing such a creative and complex dystopian/fantasy could be from a debut author. The Queen of the Tearling is the closest thing I've come across that's truly like a female-oriented Game of Thrones. With the book's omniscient point of view, you get the sense of a bigger picture just beginning to be unveiled. Since her mother's death long ago, Kelsea is the to-be queen raised in secrecy, for fear of assassination. Now, on her 19th birthday, Kelsea comes into power; she has to rule a country who hasn't seen a queen in almost twenty years, as well as stave off a looming battle with the neighboring country Mortemense, ruled by the elusive and ageless Red Queen. What's most unique about this world is it's Europe in the future. It's vaguely dystopian, but has the foremost feel of fantasy, with only small reference to world-past. With this unique blending of genres and a relatable heroine, I couldn't stop turning the pages.