Review | The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – with Audiobook Notes

Posted July 17, 2015 by Asheley in review, Uncategorized / 6 Comments

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Published by Harper 
Publish Date: July 8, 2014
Source: Hannah @ So Obsessed With – Thank you, friend!
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.  (Goodreads) 

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

My Thoughts: I will be honest and tell you that I was so excited to read this book for so long that I COULD NOT. I know, that sounds ridiculous. But I had expectations that were really high and that always makes me afraid. So I avoided it while I also was super-excited about the day that I would finally pick it up. 

I picked up The Queen of the Tearling a few days ago and could. not. put. it. down. Once I entered the land of the Tear, I never really left. I devoured the first book and have eagerly picked up the second book, ready to devour it as well. 


Kelsea has lived tucked away in hiding and seclusion with foster parents until she is to ascend to her throne as Queen of the Tearling. She has been educated well, but nothing can prepare her for what she finds when she reaches her people: they are in need, they are in want, and they are in fear. Apparently the previous two rulers – her mother and her uncle – were not strong rulers, and the Tear has withered away over the past years. The people have lived in fear of the Red Queen of the neighboring Mort region. The previous Queen, Kelsea’s mother, signed a treaty with the Red Queen giving them too much control over the Tear. 

The Red Queen is awful. 

Upon walking into her grounds, Kelsea immediately breaks the treaty in order to set her people free from the evil Red Queen’s grip of fear. In doing this, she’s just invited invasion by the Mort army, and the Tear army is not equipped to beat the Mort army at all. 

What has Kelsea done?

Kelsea can’t let her people suffer like this any longer. The right thing to do is to MAKE THINGS RIGHT. But she can’t let the invasion destroy the Tear either, killing all of the great people of the land. 


I will go ahead and say right up front: it took me a little while to get into The Queen of the Tearling. The chapters are very long and the world was difficult to visualize. Both of these things are a little on the tough side for me. It took me a little while to read and reread the first two chapters, but once I did, I was able to create an image of how I thought the world looked in my head: somewhere in the future, except it looks like the past. Sooo, this setting is some sort of post-America world, except the people wear armor and have swords and ride horses and live in a castle. It has a medieval feel to it? In the future? Okay. 

I decided to just go with it. And it’s good that I did because the story is incredible. Kelsea sets out to right the wrongs of the rulers before it, a daunting task, and she has no experience whatsoever with how to do this. Book smarts, she has. Advice from her foster parents, she has. But nothing prepared her for actually BEING THERE, among her people, among the despair and loss of hope and need. But Kelsea is quick to get started and slowly, she becomes a trusted leader, a beloved leader, and she begins to restore the Tear, person by person. 

She has her Queen’s Guard to help her. They don’t always agree with her decisions and choices – for good reason – but these guys are fantastic. I love the fact that they protect and guard her without concern for other things, because they’re sworn. They are exemplary in their positions. And amazingly, they’re able to keep a reasonable distance from her as far as relationship goes – what I mean is that they all have more of a family-type bond than any type of friendship-bond, which is important because it means that they tell her when she is being unreasonable or when she needs to chill out a bit. 

I love some of the sub-plots of the story, like how much power the Church has – particularly after Kelsea arrives – and what it looks like when their ruler doesn’t go along with the Church absolutely. I love how Kelsea helps to empower some of the female characters by giving them ways to help themselves, like jobs so they can provide for themselves and their children! I love that Kelsea tackles the Red Queen’s human trafficking when no one wanted to stand up to her because NO to that junk. Kelsea figures out that sometimes giving people a healthy voice is key in helping them out of crappy circumstances. Also key is just being kind to them, because sometimes people just need kindness and to be seen

One thing that I love about really good fantasy is that there are plenty of things to discuss, and that is what we have here. I’m excited to see where some of these sub-plots and issues go in the next book, and I’m excited to see what happens to some of the characters involved (good and bad) .

The Queen of the Tearling is a great mix of character-driven and action-driven. There are lots of characters that are important, and the author is able to introduce each one along with their backstory in a way that is not overwhelming to me, which I completely appreciate. It is a neat style that I don’t often see. There is plenty of action and adventure in here as well, which I love, without the complication of romance. 

I loved this story. I’m SO GLAD I waited to read it, so I wasn’t caught up in the hype surrounding the release. I love having questions going into the next installment, and I want more about my favorite characters (Lazarus, The Fetch). I recommend The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen for fans of fantasy. I’m so excited that I can pick up the second book and start it right away. 

Audiobook Notes: The audiobook format of The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is published by HarperAudio and is 14 hours and 30 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Katherine Kellgren, who voiced a completely lovely fantasy audiobook here. I have not much else to say other than the audiobook is near-perfection, with Ms. Kellgren’s accent and perfect emotive reading of Kelsea’s role as the new Queen. She was also a fine reader for the other roles, including the males. I think one of the best indicators of how great an audiobook is is whether or not I find myself holding my breath during action scenes or emotional scenes, and YES I DID. I absolutely recommend this audio for first time reads and for rereads. 


The Queen of the Tearling will appeal to fans of:

Adult Fantasy
Romance: No.
Great Sibling Relationships
Unreliable Narrator

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
is currently available for purchase.


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


6 responses to “Review | The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – with Audiobook Notes

  1. This is a book that's been on my radar for quite a while now, and I regret to say that I haven't actually tracked down a copy so that I can read it yet. :/ One of these days. It really does sound good, and your review really reminded me of how close it is to the top of my literary watchlist.

  2. I'm so happy you enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling! It's such a phenomenal fantasy novel, and I love the way Erika Johansen combines these familiar elements into a story that's all her own.

  3. I'm so happy you loved The Queen of the Tearling! It took me some time to get into the story and envision the world too, but it was definitely worth it in the end. Like you, I really love the subplots and some of the social/political/religious issues that arose. I think that made the book so much more complex and dynamic, and it gave me a better sense of just how difficult it would be to rule a nation (especially one like Tear).

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