This is the sequel to the absolutely amazing Queen of the Tearling and continues to follow the Glynn Queen Kelsea Raleigh. It carries on from not long after the end of the previous book and Kelsea must face the consequences of her actions against the Mort.
The writing remains brilliant and it’s great to be with these characters again. There’s a drastic turn in the story that provides some Tearling history and introduces a new character and some context to the story, however it feels like Kelsea is forgotten in favour of this new person.
In the first books Kelsea took up her place on the Tearling throne and decided not to leave it too long before causing some controversy. Due to her mother’s actions two decades earlier the Tearling were forced into sending a caravan of people to be slaves in the Mort, when Kelsea first saw this (having been raised in the country under a different name to keep her safe) she set everyone free and decreed they would never again condemn anyone to this fate again.
Of course, the Mort Queen wasn’t pleased and she declared war on the small country. And this is where the new book picks up. As you might be able to guess from the title the Mort begin to invade the Tearling and the book begins with a cunning move on behalf of the queen and her army, but it doesn’t stay that way.
Don’t worry, I won’t spoil that for you. As I mentioned before it was great to be with these characters again, as well as following Kelsea we learn about the Mace, the Red Queen as well as the origins of the Tearling itself. We finally get some answers about the dark thing that keeps the Red Queen scared of fire and we learn a bit more about the Tearling royal line. Of course, Kelsea develops more as well.
Now, after the first book I thought Kelsea was awesome. As far as main characters go she is brilliant because she deliberates her decisions and despite really not wanting to e in the spotlight she is happy to take it up in order to protect her people and make them happy. However, she is not the same Kelsea we know from the first book. I’m not sure what’s changed, but I get the feeling that she’s started to think too much and stopped following her instincts…or perhaps she does follow them but they are wrong.
Either way, it feels like something has broken and however much I urged her to do certain things to get back on the right track she always seemed to pull against it. To me she strayed further and further from the path that she used to be on and even by the end of the book I’m not sure she found the redemption she needed. I mean, she definitely tried and it was her intention to give anything for her people, but I’m not entirely certain of what happened to her at the end of the book. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the in the second half of it she took a back seat to someone else.
Lily Mayhew is a brand new character and the only thing I will give away is that she is from the pre-Crossing era. I think she’s there for Kelsea to learn some sort of lesson and I don’t know if she picked it up, because everything she did seemed to be the opposite of Lily. Anyway, Lily ended up being a really strong character and her story was a gripping one. She really added something extra to the tale and it’s exciting to see where on earth this story is going to go.
She and Kelsea really gave this series an extra depth as well, since once of the issues toyed with in the pre-Crossing parts was feminism. Thanks to a president who took office in America women were stripped of all their rights and the world regressed back into a state of an utterly patriarchal society where woman were only good for having children, and if they failed that they were considered to be failing in their only duty as a woman.
It’s a very strong book in what is becoming an exceptional fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian/whatever-the-hell-the-genre-is series. Johansen has come up with a brilliant story and she tells it well. Yes, Kelsea is changing but that’s part of her character development and the most annoying thing is that it’s a natural development, so I can’t even be angry at this change in the main character.
For all those unimaginative people who keep on comparing it to Game of Thrones really need to widen their reading material. I said this with the first book, I’ll say it here again now, and I’m sure I’ll say it for the next one – but this series is nothing like Game of Thrones. Yes, there’s fighting and politics and royalty and land disputes but these can be the same in many books and that doesn’t make them similar to GoT. In these books there’s a basic level of human decency, in GoT there’s hardly any evidence of that.
The wait between this and the next will be long because I need to know what’s going to happen next and I so want Kelsea to find the redemption she deserves after some of her actions in this book. It’s an exciting story and I’m sure it’s rushing towards an exciting conclusion.