This feels like a debut author novel. There are many pages of long blocks of text. Different scenes are told from different points of view. This is a publishing anomaly that breaks many “rules” agents, editors, and respected writing sites and books have taught as the standard for this era in publishing. Including spelling a color in the British way (grey) rather than the American way (gray), which is a generally frowned upon inconsistency.
One fact is established as certain— this is a utopia gone wrong. Tolerance is dead. (No rainbow flags here. Though pedophiles and rapist are commonplace. I cannot, in good conscience, call any story where rape is a shoulder-shrugging crime a feminist book.) There’s an upper class 1%, near upper class, and the starving poor majority class in Tearling.
The book makes mention of the Tale of King Author, one character comparing the main character, Queen Kelsea, to him. There’s also a Robin Hood-like character, except he doesn’t give to the poor, but he’s loved by the poor for making the rich suffer.
What I liked best about the main character, Kelsea, is her appreciation for books. She offers some diversity in that she is plain looking and overweight (which is brought up several times, especially in chapter nine). Skin shades were also mentioned a few times, mostly in that dark skin was rare in this world.
It is fantasy in that there is a character with dark magical ability and another character with magical objects.
I was very impressed with the rich vocabulary that Harper publishing permitted the book to use. There was a whole host of words rarely seen printed in fiction nowadays.(My favorite among these being the word bulwark, which I was told needed to be defined, as adult readers would not know it.)
The climax felt reminiscent of Breaking Dawn (Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga) in that the main character finally reaches the eluded-to powerful self, but the battle fizzles. If tension is about “how can this main character defeat that enemy,” there’s a disappointment here. It does, however, “sell the next book,” in that now the story is developed. It feels less like the first book in a series and more like an origin story that has to read, or got out of the way, in order to get to the action.
Despite that, the book leaves a great deal of background questions. The biggest being where The Tearling (and other countries) actually are located. It seems to take place in a future where most technology and advancements have been lost— some intentionally. A ship of medical supplies and personal sank in the waters of a vast ocean on the way from America. Is this book building off of the movie Waterworld? The nearest answer is a quote of “God’s great plan in raising the New World out of the sea.”
The main religion is a mix of Catholic, Protestant, and preservation of the species. Another religion is mentioned (Lutheran, I would guess). Kelsea has little interest in religion, and it’s hinted that this will be an issue in the next book. Readers who are easily upset by atheist may be offended by this work of fiction. Also note that there are adult situations and language in this story. It does not feel like a YA novel, though it does seem to be marketed to that age group.
I’ve given it 4 stars, though 3 1/2 would be more accurate. I do intend to buy the next book. I went through all this and now expect the next book to reward me with the action and climatic events I crave.
On a personal note: I regret buying the paperback version. The paper and binding feel flimsy. I suggest getting the hardcover or the ebook version if you are purchasing it.
This blog review is more extensive than the ones I posted on Amazon, Goodreads, and 50 Book Pledge.
Have you read this book? Are you planning to read it, or the second one (The Invasion of the Tearling)?