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, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.
But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.
In this dazzling sequel, Erika Johansen brings back favorite characters, including the Mace and the Red Queen, and introduces unforgettable new players, adding exciting layers to her multidimensional tale of magic, mystery, and a fierce young heroine.
The Invasion of the Tearling is the second book in The Queen of the Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen. While I merely liked the first installment of this series, I was genuinely surprised to find The Invasion of the Tearling take a complete 180 turn from its predecessor; it is a fast-paced, action-filled, genre-bending read that you CANNOT put down!!
Genre-bending: noun, def.: the act in which an author takes a seemingly simple story and swipes it across a medium of several different genres, seamlessly flowing from one to the other without separation or transition, and consequently BLOWS THE READERS MIND!! What started as a cut-and-dry medieval fantasy novel has now morphed into this hybrid breed of fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian wünderbuch (that's German for FREAKING FANTASTIC BOOK... in case you were wondering).
If I could narrow down a proper description of this book into one word it would be GRIT. From the lead character's disposition, to the no-nonsense attitude the author takes on intimacy between characters, from the sinister role the Church plays within political maneuverings, to the realistic illustration of domestic abuse, violence amidst war, looting, pillaging, and, in some instances, rape.. .Grit is everywhere, present at all times throughout this novel.
Don't be fooled: this is NOT your typical YA fantasy novel. YA is probably an inappropriate label in this case. I would only refer this book to older audiences, in an effort not to wrongly influence anyone who still has pliable and/or unformed opinions on religion or violence against women. Hence my 18+ age recommendation above. As a reader, I respect the narrative voice that Erika Johansen chose to use. I felt that certain uncomfortable topics were used to drive the storyline in a horrifying and brutal manner, but the author never once romanticized, minimized, or in any way endorsed domestic violence or rape where it was written. You have been warned.
What I liked:
There are quite a few things in this novel that I quite enjoyed. To name a few:
- Kelsea's Character Development: We see a significant difference in Kelsea's maturity from what we witnessed in the first book. In The Queen of the Tearling, we witness a naive, shallow, conceited girl who places herself first before her people and her kingdom. Mind you, I gave her much more leniency then some, considering the circumstances of her ascension, her age, and proper lack of any sort of societal norms to base her actions on. However, in Book #2 Kelsea has, for lack of a better term, grown up. She's developed a hardness to her. A darkness. And it was delicious to watch!!
- New Characters (surprisingly): Normally, it takes me a while to sink into a new character. I spend at least half a book hating them, wishing the author would move on to our beloved leads. Not so in Invasion. Lily, from Pre-Crossing Connecticut (that's right...like in the USA...not so medieval now, are we?), shows us what the world was like before the Tearling, before Kelsea, before the Mort Queen... A life lived in a cage, where people were micro-chipped and monitored, women were nothing more then chattel, owned by their husbands, whose only purpose in life was to serve and birth offspring... (see quote below)
- Wicked Plot Twists: There are so many times that this book knocked me off my feet with insane twists. Without spoilers: a) We get to learn more about how the Queen of Mort came to power and WHO she really is. b) We're shown how the sapphires played a role in starting the New World, as well as what their true powers really are. c) So many questions are answered regarding what The Crossing actually is, how it was started, and the timeline for this whole world, which was so frustrating at times in the first book.
What I didn't like:
Again we are left high and dry as to the identity of Kelsea's father. Up until the last 10% of the book, I was convinced it was The Mace. But Erika Johansen has seriously impressed me with her plot-weaving skills, so I'll concede to the master and wait patiently for the third book to get my explanation.
The pacing in the first part of the book is a bit cloddish. Coupled with the interchanging POV's between Kelsea and Lily in modern Pre-Crossing Era (which the reader DOES NOT know right off the bat, making for a very confused Unapologetic Nerd), it took me until about 40% in for me to find my reading stride. Once Kelsea's visions of Lily's were more fleshed out, I picked up a rhythm pretty quickly and blew through the rest of the book.
There are so many questions left unanswered in this second installment!! I can't wait to see what Erika Johansen pulls out of her bottomless bag of bobbins and trickery. I am a huge fan of cross-blending genres, and she has done a FANTASTIC job of it with this series.
The last book in this trilogy, The Fate of the Tearling, is expected to release June 7th, 2016.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who will not be offended and/or disturbed by scenes of rape, domestic abuse, assault, and/or be uncomfortable with negative implications towards organized religion. Again, I do NOT recommend this for younger audiences.
I give this 4/5 stars.