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The evil kingdom of Mortmesne invades the Tearling, with dire consequences for Queen Kelsea and her realm. 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, Kelsea has crossed the brutal Red Queen, who derives her power from dark magic and who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what she claims is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.
Reviewed from ARC
Narrative: Third person, subjective
Warning: for those with dealing with sexual violence, self harm and torture triggers
I actually decided to put off writing this review for a week, so that I could sit back, look at the book with a more objective eye and use words other than SQUEE
So, here is what I’m thinking right now, after time away:
I know, that plan obviously worked a treat..
I think what has gotten me so flustered is the way Johansen has been able layer Medieval-esue Fantasy with Dystopian in a way that doesn’t seem like a completely foreign concept. It works, and it proves to be a most powerful method of telling the stories of Kelsea, Lily and the history of the Tearling.
Kelsea, the main POV in Queen of The Tearling, is now the queen of her little patch, fighting for her people, protecting her lands and becoming a creature of power that she hasn’t got real control of. With the Red Queen trying to thwart her, and her neighbours trying to take her power, she begins to change in a way that confounds and horrifies her advisers. She is becoming what she wanted so desperately to be in ‘Queen'; beautiful, thin and powerful, but at what cost to herself and her subjects? Kelsea’s story is compelling, just as it was in the first book, but the the real depth comes from the other main POV character, Lily, a pre-crossing woman that Kelsea flashes back to and shares consciousness with.
And the story of Lily is brutal. I mean, absolutely heart rending for any woman (and hopefully men) to read. Stuck in a abusive relationship within a world that has devalued women to point in which they are simply baby making, repopulating machines in the service of husband and country, Lily is a commodity. There are points during her narrative at which my stomach churned and I wanted to hate the book as much as it seemed to hate me. And that is why this book is so amazing, because I didn’t hate it. It’s hard, it’s horrible, but it’s real even though it’s set in a dystopian future, and the only thing I could do was read it and hope, and hope and hope some more.
(It’s interesting, because whilst reading this, there was an explosion of social media activity about the topic of using rape in fiction due to a Game of Thrones episode. The consensus was against it unless absolutely necessary, “Not as a lazy plot point”. So, I was reading this with that whole conversation rambling in the back of mind.. “Is this necessary? Is this needed?” The only answer I could come up with was: fuck yes. If you are going to go there, go there and don’t shy away from the truth, don’t pan away, don’t gloss it over. Go there and go there without sparing the reader. WE need to see this so we can learn and empathise.)
The pacing in this book is superb. It flows like nothing I’ve read recently. Johansen seems to have the most complete control of every little happening; it ebbs in precisely the right spots and expands without a skerrick of crazy, keeping the narrative as engaging as possible. There are some clunky crossovers between Kelsea and Lily’s POV’s that made my eye twitch on occasion, but it is such a small part in the overall awesome, that it’s almost completely forgiveable.
If you separate plots of Kelsea and Lily’s narratives, and look at them individually, they aren’t the most original in their respective genres. So here’s some advice: Don’t look at them individually! What makes them shine is the way they interact and intertwine to create a unique voice that crosses time and lives.
But in the end, here’s the real question that I think The Invasion of The Tearling poses: If we were given the opportunity to create a utopian society, all the good intentions in the world and the ability to leave all the shite we’ve gathered behind us; would human nature really allow it to remain Utopian, or would over time, our paradise look a hell of a lot like what we have right now?
I thought a lot about comparing this to Margaret Atwood’s style throughout, and I am not sure it’s a fair comparison as nobody is really comparable to Atwood (she scares the bejeezus out of me). However this does bring a whole new ball game to the genre of both Adult Epic Fantasy and Dystopian that is truly exciting, and covers all my cups of tea in one go.
Harcopy Worthy? Jesus H Roosevelt Christ Yes, yes, yes.