Hardcover, 515 pages
Published June 9th 2015 by Harper
My decision to pick up the sequel to last year’s The Queen of the Tearling was, in part, due to my interest in the Red Queen, the villain of the first book. I hoped to see a lot more of her in the sequel and I was not disappointed. I was not fond of Kelsea, the protagonist, for many reasons–her name being one of them. So I went into the sequel with low expectations and came out very impressed. I felt that the novel showed exponential improvements where writing, prose, and character/world building are concerned.
The world feels more fleshed out; the reader gets to experience multiple perspectives which helps in creating an omniscient view (of sorts) of the world in which the story is set. Kelsea also shares a connection with the mysterious Lily, a person with whom she has many connections and one who existed in the time before the crossing–before Tearling was established as a country. I must say that the origin of the world the Tearling is in still makes no sense despite there being some progress made in explaining its genesis. I cannot speak about it without giving things away so if you’ve read the book and want to discuss, I’d love to indulge you.
The action sequences are impressive; I enjoyed the excitement accompanying the political maneuvers. Johansen also expounds upon the Red Queen, delving into her motivations and goals, and creating a far more sympathetic character than one would have thought considering her utter lack of conscience where human slavery is concerned. The Red Queen’s reactions to and unwilling fascination with Kelsea further humanizes her.
Kelsea herself goes through a dramatic metamorphosis in this novel. While she wasn’t the most sympathetic character in the first one, she becomes even less so in The Invasion of the Tearling. Kelsea’s relationships with her guards, her maids, and her own self continues changing as Kelsea changes or rather is changed. I liked how the book doesn’t ask you to like Kelsea but to accept her as a person which wasn’t that difficult to do. Because the narrative is seen from multiple perspectives, Kelsea does become part of the cast rather than the protagonist at times.
The romance was…weird. I have a feeling the Fetch is going to become more complicated in the next book and his relationship with Kelsea will not be the romantic one she is hoping for. Beyond that, I do like that Kelsea is self-aware of her own desires and acts on them without expressing the Victorian feelings most common to princesses and their ilk.
All in all, this was a solid follow up to the first novel. I look forward to reading the next one in this series.