I was the very first person to get our public library’s brand new copy of The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen. This is because, even though I usually listen to our local fine arts radio station, one day on the drive to my son’s soccer camp, I tuned in to public radio and hit the last half of a book discussion panel. I requested three books from the library as a result of my small foray into public radio, and I’ve only read one of them. I will probably tune in to public radio again when I’ve finished all three books.
On to The Queen of the Tearling. I admit that a fantasy novel with a strong female protagonist is an easy sell for me. When I think of all those decades and decades of manly, manly fantasy novels, the female protagonist in this genre still feels like a departure from the norm, you know? It was easy for me to remember the title when I heard it, and I was very excited to get it from the library.
The Queen of the Tearling falls neatly into the category of the coming-of-age novel, as well. The leaving behind of the setting of one’s childhood, the self-doubt, and the self-discovery: they are all there. We know from the beginning that Kelsea, the protagonist and the Queen, has a journey to make and a destiny to fulfill. The details of the characters and the setting of the world through which Kelsea travels are what makes Kelsea’s journey and destiny of particular interest to the reader.
In fact, I would say that the setting, the world Johansen creates for her characters to move through, is what really makes this novel for me. Do you ever wonder what would happen if all of our technology just vanished and we all had to start over, re-learning survival and subsistence skills that had been mastered by previous generations and forgotten by ours? I do sometimes wonder about this, and the setting of this novel shows that Johansen has thought about this too.
Kelsea, brought up in isolation on a farm, has an outsider’s view of this world. She gradually learns about it, but of course it doesn’t end there. Kelsea is the Queen, some say the True Queen, and she not only has to discover the world around her but make decisions about it as well. Far-reaching decisions, the kind that will affect the whole nation of the Tearling.
I think that this is why the fantasy genre has such appeal. The decisions made in a fantasy setting are all just so momentous. Here in twenty-first century America, we are dragging through our existence, coping with petty annoyances and small decisions that don’t feel like they have a very far reach beyond our little lives. Kelsea, on the other hand, has the fate of her nation at the tip of her sword.
I don’t know that I really want my decisions to be all that big and all-encompassing. But it’s nice to escape into a world where you can follow a woman whose decisions move the course of nations.
Thank you, Ms. Johansen, for letting me escape. Can’t wait for the next two books in the trilogy.
Love you & leave you,