Published: July 16th 2015 by Random House AU
Format: ARC, 528 pages
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With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.
But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.
Kelsea, now firmly settled into her role as the Queen of the Tear, is now preparing for war with the neighbouring kingdom of Mortmesme. The Invasion of the Tearling begins with an incursion into the disputed territory between the two kingdoms and ends with a siege. But the invasion and the accompanying war is only one element in this complicated book, and I’ve loved how Johansen wove all the different threads together to create a masterpiece of a story.
My favourite aspect of The Invasion of the Tearling, unsurprisingly, is Kelsea. She’s not perfect by any means, she’s actually one of the most flawed characters I’ve ever read. She’s plagued by insecurities, prone to anger, and sometimes irrational. But her strength comes from a willingness to recognise her weaknesses and work on them. She knows she gets angry too quickly and so works at reining it in. She knows she’s insecure about her looks, so she’s wary of people who flatter her too much. Kelsea’s journey in this book is centred on identity and perception – not only how she presents to others, but also how she sees herself.
Interestingly, Kelsea’s understanding of her own identity is complicated by the magic of the mysterious sapphires she wears around her neck – powerful, magical gems that seem to have lain dormant since their dramatic performance at the end of The Queen of the Tearling. Firstly, the begin to change her appearance. Kelsea, who has always been described as “plain” and “carrying too much weight”, begins to transform physically into a traditionally beautiful woman, though no action of her own. I liked the reactions of The Queen’s Guard to this change – they noted it but didn’t question or judge Kelsea about it. I also liked Kelsea’s own reaction, especially when it came to her feelings for the Fetch.
The second complication the sapphires present is rather more exciting – they drag Kelsea three hundred years into the past, into the life of a seemingly inconsequential woman named Lily Mayhew. It’s through Lily that Kelsea, and we, discover the pre-Crossing world, and many questions about the Crossing are answered. The pre-Crossing world is terrifying, a plutocracy where the divide between the rich and the poor was insurmountable. The president at the time, Frewell, introduced the Emergency Powers Act, enforced by “Security”, ostensibly to counter the threat of domestic terrorism, but really a way to control the populace through martial law. Pre-Crossing America is a place where books are censored, where women are second, or third, class citizens with barely any rights and no functions beyond producing children, where a fringe group called Blue Horizon fights for a better world. I loved Lily’s journey. She discovered an inner strength she didn’t know she had and I think her story complimented Kelsea’s very well. I loved Jonathan. I did find the descriptions of domestic violence harrowing – Johansen didn’t hold back there – but it wasn’t done in a gratuitous way.
The Invasion of the Tearling doesn’t only answer a few questions about the Crossing, it also allows readers to dig deeper into the mystery of the Tear Assassination and the enigma that is the Red Queen, the Queen of Mortmesne. The introduction of a mysterious dark spirit who offers Kelsea the secret to the Red Queen’s destruction was a clever plot device, I thought, bringing Kelsea’s deepest wishes to the forefront and forcing a confrontation between them and her duties as the Queen of Tear. The contrast between the spirit and the Fetch was well-done, especially since Kelsea herself recognised how dangerous her response of the spirit was. While most of my questions about the spirit have been answered, I have so many questions about the Fetch, and I look forward to the next book where, I hope, they’ll be answered. Like Kelsea, I find myself unwilling to hate the Red Queen now that I know her history. No villain is ever one-dimensionally evil, and I think Johansen has done an admirable job in bringing the Queen of Mortmesne to life.
I’m happy to report that Kelsea has established more positive relationships with the women who surround her, after being disappointed with the lack of positive female relationships in The Queen of the Tearling. Kelsea has a great relationship with Andalie, the Dame of the Chamber, and Andalie’s children. I loved that The Invasion of the Tearling introduced passages from the POV of Aisa, one of Andalie’s children. She’s a character to watch!
I love the Tearling series. I love the world, I love the characters, and I love the mystery that surrounds the Crossing and the early history of Tear. I recommend these books to fans of YA fantasy, and think fans of Sarah J. Maas will particularly like them. Bring on The Fate of the Tearling, I say!!