Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling

Okay, I get it. I understand the criticisms of this book, I even agree with most of the them. But damn if I didn’t enjoy reading it. This book doesn’t do anything too shocking, or really anything that we haven’t seen before. Fans of fantasy will find the setup familiar: a young woman named Kelsea reappears from a life of hiding once she comes of age to inherit the throne. She battles political infighting, an embittered populace, and several attempts on her life. Oh, there’s also the looming threat of an evil queen in a neighboring state, and a couple of powerful family gems thrown in the mix. So fairly familiar territory, but despite this (and it’s few blatant flaws), I think it is a fun read.

Speaking of those flaws, the book does a few things that really didn’t work for me. These are actually more important to know than the things that do work. If you cannot get past these problems you are going to be in the “this book really isn’t for me” group.

  • The weird future medieval time period. At first glance the story feels like it takes place in another world during a medieval time period equivalent. But then it becomes apparent that is is actually our world, in the future (there are references to the Internet, Harry Potter, modern medicine). So something happens that causes us to regress, lose all of our technology, etc. On the surface this is fine, many post apocalyptic stories deal with a society that crumbles, but in this novel it feels odd. So some sort of catastrophe happens and we lose access to much of our technology, but no one even tries to retain the knowledge or regain what we had? We just regress back to swords and shields, horses and carriages? And no ones seems particularly bothered by this? Even in post apocalyptic stories the characters are generally striving to keep some semblance of what they had. They search for fuel to keep vehicles running, they search for medicine, they cling to whatever pieces of modern life they can. So it just seems off to me, and rather unlikely, that the people in this novel would just give up. In all fairness, as of yet we don’t know what happened to bring the world to this point,but I’m not sure what could possibly explain this level of regression. I managed to get over this by pretending that it is actually a different world, one that just happened to have Harry Potter as well. This was surprisingly easy.
  • The body image/self esteem issues of the main character. Kelsea thinks about how plain she is, a LOT. At times and in situations where it doesn’t even make sense. Despite having these self esteem issues herself, Kelsea has no problem tearing down another woman for believing herself to be beautiful even though she is OLD. You would think she would be more sympathetic towards the plights of an aging woman dealing with beauty and self image in a society that measures a woman’s worth based on how she looks. But no, if you’re old you should just shut up and stop trying. Now, I can forgive this because I think I see what the author was trying to do, and I respect it. Kelsea is a heroine whose beauty is NOT one of her key traits. She struggles with body image and self esteem, she worries she does not fit what her society deems a queen should look like. So the story is trying to touch on these issues and how they affect women, even women in power, even fantasy heroines. But it doesn’t always feel natural and it isn’t always consistent, so at time it feels like it is doing more harm than good.

However, the book is still FUN. Despite the body image issues, Kelsea is an interesting, multifaceted character. The politics are intricate, the fantasy elements intriguing, the characters endearing (or aggravating in the case of the “villains”). I’m excited to pick up the next installment of this series. I believe the flaws could be easily addressed in a sequel, or at the very least the enjoyable elements can continue to carry the weight.

The Blog

I think it is a good idea to outline what the intended purpose of this blog is right here on the first entry. This is both for myself and for any potential readers (see how optimistic I am, thinking that there will be readers), but if I am going to be honest it is mostly for myself. I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, from trolling the middle school library for all the S.E. Hinton and Madeline L’Engle I could find, to discovering the classics in high school, to devouring all the available A Song of Ice and Fire installments in a mere two months, reading has always been something that I have loved. Now it should be said that I love popular culture in general, movies, television, podcasts, video games, I have been known to indulge in them all. I see the value in and genuinely enjoy each of those mediums, but reading fiction gives me a sense of enjoyment above and beyond the others. The pleasure I get from a really good novel just cannot be compared to anything else.

Now what does this have to do with a blog? I believe that most readers deep down somewhere in their little souls would like to be writers. Some may argue with this point and say that one can enjoy reading without ever holding a desire to write. I find this unlikely. If you find true enjoyment from reading the thought  has to have crossed your mind that someone made this, the words, the characters, the story they all came from someone’s mind. That has to inspire something in you. In me it brings forth the idea, if they did it, why can’t I? Obviously it is a big jump from beginning to blog to writing a novel. In fact, it may not be a jump at all, or at the very least a horizontal one, because blog writing and fiction writing are different forms. But I have repeatedly heard that if you want to write you have to just do it. Write something, anything, just flex those muscles! As my high school choir director used to say, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent”. So my goal with this blog is exactly that. To flex my writing muscles and hope that through practice, I can make writing a permanent aspect of my life.

That is the ‘why’ of the blog, so how about the ‘what’. What should a beginning writer write about? Well they should write about what they know, of course! As was hinted at above, I consume a lot of pop culture (I do also interact with real, live humans, I promise). It is something I think about and discuss frequently with friends. I even record some of these thoughts in the form of a podcast (a separate entry on that later). Why not take the logical leap and write about it too? I am already out there verbally expressing my thoughts and ideas about pop culture so why not add the written word to the equation. So that is what this blog will mostly entail, a mix of reviews, reactions, essays, etc. about films, television, video games, podcasts, and of course books. It should be noted that I am not a critic (but really what is a critic other than someone who consumes a lot of something and is therefore an “expert”). However, I do consume a fair amount of each of these mediums and I definitely have lots of thoughts about the things I listen to, watch and read. Pop culture it is something I know, and so it will be the ‘what’ of my writing.

So that’s it, that is what the purpose of this blog is: to write. To write about pop culture, hopefully a lot, and in the process hone my writing skills. I hope for it to be interesting, perhaps even funny sometimes, but mostly I hope for it simply to be, to exist somewhere as proof of my desire to write. Because that is what it is all about, after all. The avid reader who just wants to be a writer.
Note: I started writing some entries long before I actually started the blog, so there may be some references to time which don’t quite fit (in one I mention that it is the midseason break for television, which it clearly has long since ended). I wanted to be prepared so I wrote some entries in advance. Entries will be current going forward (hopefully).