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Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – Review

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – ReviewQueen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: Queen of the Tearling #1
Also in this series: The Invasion of the Tearling
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren
Length: 14 hours 30 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is a new YA epic fantasy novel which tells the story of Kelsea Raleigh Glynn who must reclaim her birthright of the Tear throne.  To do this she must survive plots against her by her uncle, the Regent, and take a stand against the Mort Queen to protect her people.  The fantasy is quite subtle in this book, unlike HarperCollins’ publicity machine which has been seriously promoting this book.  This has been helped by the fact that Emma Watson has bought the film rights to the book and intends to play Kelsea in an upcoming movie adaptation.  In all honesty, I cannot say that the hype was justified – I had a few significant issues with the book.  But first of all let’s say what I liked.

What I liked

The protagonist.  From various interviews by Erika Johansen I have read it appears she has set out to create a YA protagonist who was more of an Everygirl rather than your typical YA heroine; stunningly beautiful with attractive young men fighting over her attentions while she runs a marathon and slays a few baddies before breakfast.  In that respect I believe Johansen succeeded in this.  Her Kelsea is rather homely, carries a little extra weight, would rather curl up with a good book than hike through the forest, and is refreshingly free (so far) of romantic entanglements.

Social conscience.  I also appreciated that Kelsea has a strong social conscience.  She acts the way she does not merely because she is forced into situations by circumstances but because she genuinely wishes to do what’s best for her people.  

Interesting supporting characters.  The characters Kelsea meets on her journey are wonderfully intriguing.  I look forward to reading more about The Mace and The Fetch, and I suspect we’ll hear more of Barty and Carlin’s backstory before the end of the series.

What I didn’t like

Inconsistent characterisation.  I was especially irritated that Kelsea seemed to be able to assess quickly and accurately the people she meets on her journey.  This is a young woman who has grown up in near isolation for her own protection.  While she has read a lot and has been well taught by Carlin, it seems rather unlikely to me that someone who hadn’t encountered many other people in her life would be able to judge them so accurately and consistently.  I suppose I might give her a pass on that with her training and the possible influence of the magical jewels, but still, it didn’t sit easily with me.

The worldbuilding.  This for me was by far the weakest part of the book.  The important part of any worldbuilding is that it should be logical and consistent within its own framework.  In the case of The Queen of the Tearling that is not the case. From the blurb, I gathered that William Tearling and his followers had left from our modern day world to colonise a new landmass that had appeared and to found a new utopia.  I was left with the question what was this utopia supposed to consist of?  What was their aim?  This appears to have been a planned exodus and not a last minute flight from disaster – the colonists had time to choose and pack books and other resources.  Too often I felt Johansen was trying to shoehorn modern references into a typical epic fantasy mediaeval world with little justification or explanation.  I just could not suspend my disbelief in a world where people understand recessive genes, in which the Harry Potter novels survive, but the colonists have not yet developed a basic combustion engine or remastered electricity.  It’s not as if the Crossing happened twenty years ago; it’s been three centuries since William Tear left our world.  Or were they too busy trying to recreate Harry Potter’s butterbeer to think about electricity? We humans are resourceful and inventive creatures; surely in three hundred years we would have progressed beyond the society Johansen describes?

Perhaps I am missing some key explanation that was given that makes all this make sense.  If I have, please do let me know.

If you are interested in a post-apocalyptic epic fantasy world with oblique modern day references it is far better executed in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series.  

I gave The Queen of the Tearling three stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com, Indiebound

three-stars

Reading Roundup – 11 July 2014

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First of all, I’d like to share my thoughts on the Emmy nominations which were announced earlier today – congratulations to all nominees.  No Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black?  That is very disappointing.  She has done incredible work portraying all these different clones and it would have been great to see her gain some recognition for that.  Another name I would very much liked to have seen was Pedro Pascal’s for his work as Red Viper Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones.  His performance was wonderfully nuanced and consistently excellent.

Representing Game of Thrones we have Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage and supporting actress/actor roles. Dinklage has been nominated several times and won once, this is Headey’s first I believe. My gut feeling is that Headey will have to wait a year for her win – knowing the books, Cersei has some wonderful material coming up next season, which I think will clinch it for her then.  She faces competition from fellow Brits Dame Maggie Smith as Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess of Grantham and Joanne Froggatt who plays Anna Bates – Anna had some very strong storylines this year, sensitively portrayed by Froggatt, but I’m not certain if that will be enough to win the award from the Americans.  Game of Thrones also is represented in the guest actress category by Dame Diana Rigg – another Brit – playing Lady Olenna Tyrell.  I really enjoyed her portrayal, but I don’t think it will be enough to win the Emmy, unfortunately.

There are more Brits in the miniseries category – Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman for Sherlock.  No Adventure in Space in Time?  No David Bradley? That was disappointing, although I’m certain Sherlock will take home more than one award.

So… onto more bookish matters.

This week I’ve been continuing to enjoy the audiobooks of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy.  I’m still around half way through book two, Royal Assassin.  

Added to my library this week

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.  This YA fantasy novel was my most anticipated release of this week.  I’ve started reading it already, but so far it’s not quite grabbed my attention as I’d hoped it would.  I picked this one up in both Kindle and Audible format.  

Landline.  Rainbow Rowell’s latest adult contemporary romance.  This one is the story of a couple in a strained marriage – the wife then finds she can phone her husband through space and time to a much earlier and happier point in their relationship.  I’ve loved everything I’ve read so far of Rowell’s – she writes such quirky, endearing characters – and I’m looking forward to listening to this one.  This is one I picked up in Audible format.  There’s a Landline giveaway going on at Kindles and Wine – why not go ahead and enter?  

A Plunder of Souls. This is D.B. Jackson’s third book in the genre bending Thieftaker series.  Part crime mystery novel, part historical fiction, part fantasy, these books are a lot of fun to read and I look forward to reading this next installment.  I picked it up in both Kindle and Audible format.  

I had completely forgotten that the two other short stories in the Divergent world told from Four’s point of view were released this week.  I’ve not read them yet, but they have already downloaded to my Kindle.  Sometimes that’s great fun when you forget when a book is due!

I also went a bit mad and finally added the German and Dutch versions of The Lord of the Rings to my library.  I had them in hard copy but they got lost in one of my moves.  That’s the beauty of allowing Amazon or another provider to store your books for you.  Assuming you trust Amazon that is!  It’s weird that I was unable to find ebooks of the French versions.

I did borrow one book from the library this week – Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song.  I started reading it and haven’t been able to put it down.  This is a fantasy novel very much in the vein of Name of the Wind.  It’s garnered a lot of interest in the UK, but I’ve not heard so much about it here in North America. A review will come at some point.   

This weekend I will be away visiting with family in Ottawa so there will be no posts on Monday.  I look forward to catching up with you next week!

Reading roundup – 3rd July 2014

Here in Canada Tuesday was the national holiday, Canada Day, so I had a day off work.  I was particularly pleased it fell on a Tuesday as that’s the day new books are released.  I was therefore able to spend a pleasant afternoon listening/reading The Jedi Doth Return, the third and final part in Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.

Reading roundup – 3rd July 2014The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher
Series: William Shakespeare's Star Wars #3
Also in this series: The Empire Striketh Back
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Length: 3 hours and 35 minutes
Genres: Classics, Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

As with the other two in the series, Verily a New Hope and The Empire Striketh Back, Random House Audio has done a fantastic job with the audiobook – it is a full cast audio with a talented cast and enhanced with sound effects and John Williams’ iconic music.  (Doetscher had the backing of George Lucas for this undertaking). Like the two earlier books, this is one I would recommend in audio format.  The cast is superb.  Audiobook listeners should remain right to the end for a cameo appearance by the Bard himself!

While I really enjoyed The Jedi Doth Return, I wasn’t quite a head over heels in love with it as I was with the previous two books.  Perhaps it’s because the novelty had worn off somewhat.  I still wish these had been available when I was at school studying Shakespeare!

I gave The Jedi Doth Return four stars out of five.

This week I have also been on a major Robin Hobb kick.  It’s been some time since I read her Farseer trilogy and as she has a new book in the Farseer series, Fool’s Assassin, coming out in August, I thought I should refresh my memory.  I’d forgotten how much fun the Farseer trilogy is, once you get over the initial painfully slow setup.  I read Assassin’s Apprentice and now I am onto Royal Assassin.

Added to my library this week

Random House of Canada was kind enough to give me an ARC of The Shadow’s Curse by Amy McCulloch.  This is the second in a YA fantasy duology started by The Oathbreaker’s Curse, which I also reviewed.  I’m interested to see if McCulloch does pick back up those plot points I in which I was most interested.

Nancy Richler’s The Impostor Bride was on special this week on Amazon.  This has been on my watch list for a while, mainly because it is set in my hometown of Montreal.  It seems to be a character driven chicklit drama.  It may be a while before I get round to reading it, but I will review it when I do.

That’s all for this week folks.  Have a good weekend!

four-stars

Reading Roundup – 23rd May 2014

Next week sees the release of City of Heavenly Fire – the last in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series and the marketing is in full swing.  The book trailer was released recently – check it out.

For me the most interesting thing about it was Sophie Turner’s voiceover – I had been intrigued to see how she handles the audiobook narration.  From what I see she will do well.  I’m really excited to listen to the audiobook, now.  Simon and Schuster has released a snippet of the audiobook which you can listen to below.

Again this has whetted my appetite for the book.  I’m not familiar with Jason Dohring, so I can’t say what his narration will be like, but I’m looking forward to it anyway.

Kat of Katytastic and Christine of PolandBananasBOOKS have come up with some theories.  I’m not entirely sold on their Izzy theory, but their enthusiasm for the book is so infectious.  Go check it out if you want some ideas.

On Tor.com this week you can find an excerpt of upcoming YA fantasy Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.  It tells the story of Kelsea, a princess in hiding who must now take back her mother’s throne and deal with the legacy of her mother’s rule.  This has been generating considerable buzz and it has been on my radar for a while.  The excerpt caught my attention and I will certainly be picking this one up, likely in audiobook as it’s been narrated by one of my favourite narrators Katherine Kellgren.

Another book that has been gaining rave reviews this week is The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet: A Novel, the novelisation of Bernie Su’s transmedia hit The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  Here are my thoughts on why you need to go watch this.  It was recently announced that Ashley Clement, who played the titular Lizzie Bennet, is narrating the audiobook version, so I definitely will pick that up.

I was excited to hear this week that the third book in D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker chronicles is coming out next month!  I’ve really loved this series about a thieftaker/conjurer in 18th century Boston and I will certainly be checking out A Plunder of Souls.

Reading Roundup – 23rd May 2014Gameboards of the Gods by Richelle Mead
Series: Age of X #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 462 pages
Genres: New Adult, Supernatural
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: two-stars

I had wanted to check out Richelle Mead’s (of Vampire Academy fame) new series Age of X but I hadn’t been too impressed with the sample I downloaded.  When I saw Gameboard of the Gods was available in ebook format from my local library I was happy to take the chance.  I’m about a third of the way through it and in all honestly I am not going to finish it.  First I should point out that this is what is called a New Adult book.  The protagonists are a little older than in YA and their concerns tend to be a little more adult than those in YA.  

I really wanted to like the book given how much I enjoyed Vampire Academy, but I really struggled with the painfully slow pacing, and confusing worldbuilding.  One of the things Mead does exceptionally well is writing character relationships and I felt she was handicapping herself unnecessarily by giving us two protagonists in Justin and Mae who are essentially loners.  I really missed the snarky interactions of Vampire Academy that come from knowing someone intimately.

Perhaps if I’d persevered with this, it might have got interesting – certainly, the whole mythos of the gods returning (at least that’s what I get from the blurb – at a third of the way through that has not even been hinted at.  Sorry but this is going in my did not finish pile.

Added to my library this week

Amazon had the first three chapters of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane free, so I picked that up.  My local library had the audiobook of Gaiman’s own narration so I decided to give that a go.  I’ve only read a couple of Gaiman’s books and have found that I either love them (Neverwhere) or really don’t enjoy them at all (American Gods) so we’ll see how I find this one.

My biggest splurge of the week though came with the announcement that the first seven Dresden Files by books were all available for $1.99 each!  The entire series is on my wish list so this was too good an offer to pass up.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this series, it’s about wizard Harry Dresden  who lives in Chicago and has to contend with the supernatural world while eking out a living.  I had the first five already, so I picked up numbers six and seven.  These books are all Whispersync for Voice enabled, so I took the opportunity to get James Marsters’ narration for a considerably reduced price.  

I’ve heard good things about Trudi Cavanagh’s writing so when I saw her latest book, Thief’s Magic, was on special offer for $2.80 I was excited to try it.  The premise seemed intriguing – a sentient book! – so I look forward to reading it.

two-stars
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