I am struggling a bit with this book. I ended up giving it a three star rating, but I feel like that is a bit generous. I didn't really enjoy this book, but I also don't regret taking the time to read it. I just had far too many issues with the storyline and the characters to really say that I enjoyed it.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
I liked the main character, Kelsea. And while I didn't like that she was constantly having to prove herself, I did appreciate that she wasn't afraid to stand up to people who didn't think she was strong enough or smart enough, just because she was a girl. For example, when she asked for armor for herself and one of the arms masters told her that it would take a while to find someone willing to make female armor. All Kelsea said was, "Search fast, then. You're dismissed." I also loved that her right hand man, Mace, never once let other people talk down to her (however, more on that later).
I loved the friendly banter between Kelsea and Mace. By far my favorite part about this book. I loved that they were able to read each other pretty well, and their sarcasm and quick comebacks were lovely. I also found Pen and Andalie to be pretty interesting characters. I liked how loyal Pen was, though I was worried about a romance happening there. I also really liked that Andalie could "see" things, but I wish she had a more prominent role.
I also really enjoyed the feature of the magical sapphires. Though I really wish we had gotten more information about them before the book ended. Like why they are magical.
Beware, the negatives:
One of the things I really disliked about this book was how often Kelsea looks were brought up. Specifically how "plain" she was. The first time was fine, but every single time afterwards, I just rolled my eyes and tried to pretend like it hadn't been mentioned yet again. I am so over this book trope it's not even funny.
Another thing I really disliked was the random character perspective changes. I really didn't feel like they were necessary. Sure they gave us some info, but as a reader that pays attention, I think I would have been just fine without those bits. I also would have preferred for the story to stay with the main character and learn about the dealings of the other characters through her. The chapters were very long as it is, I really would have appreciated at least a chapter break when the character changed.
The third thing that bothered me was the sudden change in Mace's character. He went from standing behind Kelsea in every decision whether he believed it was the right decision or not, to suddenly not believing her and actually saying it outright. Like, what?! I loved his character up until then. This complete 180 made me so angry that I almost DNFed the book.
And there were so, so, so many things that just didn't make sense. Even one of the main historical points, called the "Crossing," wasn't really explained. However, it sure was brought up a lot! Another thing was that books were rare. It was said that people had relied so heavily on ebooks and such that the printing of books fell out of popularity before the Crossing. But it didn't explain whether or not the ereaders were all lost, if it was an electronic or internet crash, or what.
Another bummer was that I just did not care about the Red Queen. Sure, she was a horrible person that sold people, used slaves for sex, and sacrificed children to some black shadow man than seemed to control her. Okay, so she's a stereotypical "bad" character. She also seemed pretty cowardly and like she wasn't honestly a threat to the Tear at all... all they needed was one person to stand up and say "No" to her. Boring.
My favorite passages:
"...we're coming to the point where I may need to split my men to evade pursuit. If so, my choice of body guard for you will depend much on your own abilities."
"Well, I'm a fast reader, and I know how to make stew."
Mace cleared his throat. "There's much to do today. Let's get Andalie in here to fix your appearance."
"Forgive me, Lady, but you've looked better."
Arliss grinned, his pointy hair sticking straight up over his head as though he'd taken a bolt of lightning.
"Treachery leaves a smell; a stench really, and I've never before failed to sniff it out."
In his excitement, he seemed even younger than usual, hopping from foot to foot like a small boy on Christmas, or at least a small boy who had a dire need for the bathroom.