While I wouldn’t suggest you read The Queen of the Tearling on the heels of Graceling, Fire or Bitterblue by K. Cashore – because it won’t measure up to the wonderfully feminist universes of those other three novels – I would absolutely recommend you sit down with it and settle into a warm, cozy evening of compulsive reading. I use the word ‘compulsive’ because I ended up binge-reading 300 pages within two days and was left wanting more when it was done. The story goes like this: a young women, who has been hidden away and home-schooled by foster caregivers, becomes queen on her 19th birthday and is suddenly the target of assassination attempts coming from multiple parties. She is accompanied to The Keep (her castle) where she must try to both survive, on a daily basis, and learn how to rule a kingdom that is rife with injustice. She is surrounded almost exclusively by male advisors and is thankfully a strong enough woman to hold her own and assert her wishes with men who expect her to collapse in tears any minute. Think Khaleesi with less worshiping and faithful accompaniment.
The story is set a few hundred years in the future, at which point they are living with medieval means (horses, fire, swords) although they refer to the computers of the past. One of my favourite moments comes when the Queen is watching children in her library (books are no longer printed in this world, so a library is an absolute luxury) look at her collection:
Mill’s son and Carlotta’s baby were too young for books, but all of Andalie’s children – except Glee, the toddler – knew how to read, and they seemed to live in the library while their mother was on duty. Kelsea didn’t mind having them there as long as they were quiet. And they were quiet. They had found the seven volumes of Rowling with no help at all, but there was ni squabbling. To Kelsea’s private amusement, the oldest boy, Wen, sat the other three down, and they drew straws, very diplomatically, with four twigs broken from the library’s firewood. Matthew, who was thirteen, won the right to the first book, and the other three were let to look over the shelves for alternatives.
How great that JK Rowling is mentioned amongst other literary greats!
Oh, and there’s a tiny bit of romance (more like a seed for a romantic plot is planted)… and capital-M magic.
There are more books to come, but as this just came out this year it will be quite a wait! Naturally, a movie will be in the works, and unsurprisingly, but disappointingly, it stars Emma Watson as the Queen. Don’t get me wrong, I love our Hermione, but Kelsea is supposed to be ‘plain faced’, of ‘average build’ carrying some ‘extra weight’. The waif-like beauty that is Emma Watson in no way fits any of those descriptions. Sigh.
The Queen of the Tearling is written by Erika Johansen and is available at your library or local independent bookstore!