Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.
On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.
Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.
But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend . . . if she can survive.
I’m torn between giving this book 4.5 stars and 4 stars. Really torn about that.
This is one of those books that I’ve heard SO MANY GOOD THINGS ABOUT in the last several years. I haven’t been able to read in a while though so I’m finally getting to it…6 years after it was published.
I only recently found out that this is actually an adult book and not a YA book like I always assumed it was. I would say it’s more NA, but I think adult is a good category for it. This is one of those books that goes into more adult-friendly themes that I wouldn’t recommend for young readers.
Alright so I’m leading off with this because I was under the impression that this was going to be a high fantasy novel.
NO I WAS WRONG.
If you haven’t read the book yet, I would avoid this section. It’s not super spoiler but I think if you’re looking for a surprise, this is going to be one.
This book is ACTUALLY…..POST APOCALYPTIC DYSTOPIAN FANTASY.
Which I only realized when the main character suddenly talking about America and Britain. I did not see this coming and spent a whole 30 minutes looking at Goodreads reviews about it and freaking out to my friends.
According to the story (it’s not explained in this book), something happened in the “Old World” that caused the “Crossing” to the “New World” from America and Britain to this new continent.
It’s not said though where this new continent is in relation to the rest of the actual world. For all we know, they launched ships into space and flew to another planet.
But regardless, after the Crossing, they wanted to start a Utopia and instead it dissolved into a dystopia.
Which actually is a really interesting way to handle a fantasy novel. But I also spent the majority of the time very confused about this and wishing that it was explained more.
Overall the world was very well developed and I thought that the author touched on a lot of important world building points to make her world come alive. The majority of the time I forgot this key fact until one of the characters would bring it up.
There was a lot of great details added into this setting that made it feel really alive. I was really impressed with the world building in this novel.
In general, there is a lot of great details that really tie everything together.
I thought the characters were really well done.
Kelsea is a great protagonist, well rounded and realistic. I thought for 19 years old she was well represented for her age. She didn’t seem too young or too old.
At times I thought Kelsea had the majority of things go right for her. Although I felt she struggled a great deal throughout the book, growing and learning as she went to be a good ruler, I also felt at times her struggles and set backs never really pushed her in a way that they could have.
But that being said, I still think her characterization was done really well.
For a good portion of the beginning and throughout half the book, her uncle is really painted to be this awful villian. Although he lived up to his description, I was disappointed he did not pose as much of a threat to her as I was expecting.
Yes Kelsea was hurt, but not significantly in their standoff. But in a way, I wasn’t expecting him to be so cowardly and weak. This I guess was an interesting turn of events for what I was thinking would happen. It was also a disappointment though. I really hoped that he would continue to be a thorn in her side throughout the books or have some big battle with her.
The other characters were well done as well. Mace and Pen, her two biggest guards were certainly well developed. I thought they were good contrasts to Kelsea’s characters and helped her develop into a stronger character.
However I wish some of the side characters would have been given a bigger role. For example, one of the traitors in the end was barely given any time at all. Perhaps, I think this was to throw us off him and make it into a surprise. But it was more of a let down than anything.
A couple of the other characters who were given POV, I think presented good world building for the book. But beyond that, I wasn’t sure they were totally necessary. I enjoyed the Red Queen’s parts, but I thought some of it was a bit vague.
However I liked that she was shown to be another realistic person and not just a great evil looming in the background.
As for the Fetch, I enjoyed this character a lot. He was an exciting addition and I’m interested in seeing where he’ll come in later. Yet, I thought Kelsea’s crush on him was a bit overdone. I enjoyed the lack of romance in this book, I thought it was great not to include it.
Kelsea’s crush throughout the book on The Fetch I think would have been more interesting if she had gotten a crush on another character as well. I think it might have been an interesting conflict.
I enjoyed the contrast between her foster parents and her real mother. I think it really pushed Kelsea’s development and helped with making her age realistic. Her foster parents were really well development despite only actively appearing in the first several pages.
However I thought at times, her mother’s contrast to the way Kelsea had imagined her was almost a little too stark at times. It was like she served no other purpose. Which…is probably the purpose…to serve as the person to which Kelsea decides not to idolize any longer.
I think the plot is really well done. There is a great overarching plot and several subplots that really help push the story along. I think it feeds into the next several books and sets them up for better success. I’m excited to read the next couple of books.
One part that got some good scenes later on in the books are the Tearling Jewels.
For the first several chapters, like Kelsea, I was a bit confused about the real mystery and purpose behind them, other than to serve as her birthright. I was excited to figure out later on that they’re actually magical.
But one part I was a bit confused about was why exactly the Fetch kept one of them and then later on gave it back to her, “when he felt she deserved it”. Is there something even more special about the other jewel or what? I might have to go back and reread these parts.
I’ll be interested to see how they serve the plot later on in the other books and where exactly they came from. Also how magic came into this world…seeing as there was America and Great Britain beforehand? And how religion in the story works into it.
On that note, I’m always excited to see when authors bring up religion in their fiction. I think too often, authors default to not including anything at all in fear of alienating readers or offending someone.
The Cover Design
I have one of the paperback versions (shown on top). While I don’t think it’s the most impressive book cover, I think it’s well done. I enjoy the typography and the gilded background. It’s a nice touch I only see a lot in hardcovers but not that often in paperbacks.
This was a great first book and I’m really excited to eventually read the others in this series. However, my feelings about it are not THIS IS AMAZING, BEST I’VE EVER READ….there’s something about it where I’m like, “great!” but not, “amazing!”
I think this book is different from others in the genre. Mainly the genre crossing and turning some tropes on their heads. I think overall it was really well done and I need to read the other books before making a final judgement call.
I’m glad I bought this book instead of renting, as I can see myself coming back to read it.