**** 4 stars —
Be prepared, this is a really fricking long synopsis
An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.
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.
Here’s a book I WISH I’d got the hardcover for. But hardcovers are incredibly expensive and I need to eat to live, so I made do with the paperback.
This was a story of two halves – the first 200 or so pages was a lot of exposition with not a lot going on. I didn’t get a good read off Kelsea – she seemed a little bit haphazard. But as the book went on I did warm to her – apart from when she so clearly spat bitterness at a venomous noblewoman about her looks and that nobody would want her for sex. I found that to be very harsh, and possibly yes a reflection of her own worries about her plain appearance, but still.
This book would have been 5* but along with Kelsea’s shaky start I was VERY confused about the appearance of watches, Rowling and The Hobbit in what I’d imagined to be a typical medieval fantasy. I didn’t have the explanation on the back cover that this was set after some massive dystopia of our modern world, so I jarred a little at that. But the worldbuilding, despite that, was pretty damn good.
The side characters were all memorable, and I really enjoyed Mace (Lazarus), Pen and the Fetch, even though Mace and Pen’s sudden change just before the finale didn’t make sense canonically to me.
I WILL be getting the second book, because I’m fascinated, and I enjoyed the political intrigue so very much.