The Invasion of the Tearling is the second in Erika Johansen’s YA Tearling fantasy trilogy. It continues the story of young queen Kelsea Glynn as she prepares to deal with the aftermath of her actions in the first novel, The Queen of the Tearling.
I’ll start this review by stating that I hadn’t actually intended to continue with this series, given that I had significant issues with Johansen’s worldbuilding and character development in the first book. However, I recently read the book blurb which indicated to me that Johansen was taking clear steps to address some of the issues with the worldbuilding at least and so I decided to give the series a second chance.
What I liked
Additional point of view character. For this second outing, Johansen has added a second point of view character, Lily. Lily is a woman from the pre-Crossing era who has a strange connection with our protagonist, Kelsea. Through her eyes we learn more about the history of the Tearling’s founding and what led William Tear to strike out to begin his utopia.
I absolutely loved Lily’s story and, personally, I was far more engaged with her plight than Kelsea’s. These sections were wonderful both from a plot point of view and character development. Throughout, I really found myself rooting for her. This section of the book reads more like a dystopian novel than the traditional fantasy of Kelsea’s section, but it worked very well.
It should be noted that Lily’s section deals with some issues which are far grittier and more adult than those generally found in young adult or even new adult books, and was written in a more adult manner. Lily is notably older than Kelsea and is in a different life stage. It could well be that’s why I connected more with her, as I too, am older than your average young adult protagonist!
Lily’s character development was beautifully written.
Kelsea’s romantic life. Often in YA, this can be a particularly problematic area, with the romance either subjected to the inevitable love triangle or so overblown with stars and rainbows it becomes intolerable. I get it. First love can be awesome. Too often though YA authors portray it through rose-tinted spectacles. Johansen’s portrayal of this part of Kelsea’s life felt grounded in reality and was excellently written.
In general I found Kelsea more consistently written in Invasion of the Tearling than she was in Queen. I particularly enjoyed how the connection between her and Lily played out.
The pre-Crossing history. The promise of learning more about the founding of the Tearling was what drew me back in to give this series a second chance and Johansen certainly made good on that promise. I loved what we got, but I’m not one hundred percent convinced, though, that she has allayed the concerns I had from the first book. I still can’t see the logic in why Harry Potter survived the Crossing but the internal combustion engine didn’t. We still have a lot to discover, so I’ll suspend final judgement on this aspect until after the final book.
What I didn’t like
Additional point of view. Yes, I know I had this listed in part of my Likes; let me explain. The two main point of view characters are in different worlds, and are at different life stages and more, importantly, are written as such. It feels almost like two completely separate books, and I’m not certain that they are targeting the same audience.
The audio narration. I had a bit of a problem with the audio narration. The book is narrated by Davina Porter, who, don’t get me wrong, does a great job. My issue is that she is best known to me as the narrator of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Ms Porter has a distinctive voice and half the time I kept expecting Jamie Fraser to come sauntering into the scene. That was my personal issue though and it may not be one for you.
In summary then, I found Invasion a stronger book than Queen of the Tearling. That’s not to say it’s perfect by any means. I’m still not completely certain Johansen can pull together a completely cohesive overall story arc by the end of the trilogy, but I’m invested enough that I want to read book three to find out.
I gave Invasion of the Tearling 3.5-4 stars out of five.