Title: The Invasion of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Review: Woah. I’m not quite sure what to think of this one yet. It was very thorough and very long, an engrossing and complex story. I added my usual Adult Novel Warning above because, like The Queen of the Tearling (book one), this book is very graphic, in a blood-and-violence, language, war, rape, etc. type of way. Really graphic, but we’re obviously not talking about an adult romance novel. This is an adult fantasy fiction novel with all of the awful aspects of a war and wartime in a kingdom. This book was interesting, and WEIRD. I think I like what Johansen is doing with the series, but I must say, it has taken a strange turn.
This book picks up where the last one left off – Kelsea is trying (and failing) to come up with ways to defeat the Mort army. So far, she has successfully slowed their march to conquer the Tearling kingdom. But a strange and evil power is disturbing Kelsea, one that has full hold on the Red Queen. Meanwhile, Kelsea has been having visions of a young woman, Lily Mayhew, of the time before the Crossing. Kelsea is fighting for her kingdom, for control over herself, for her adulthood and her humanity, and for the right thing to do. But in the end, there is no easy solution to any of her problems, and sacrifices must be made.
Like I said before, this book takes a strange turn. Pretty quickly into the story, Lily Mayhew is introduced. Kelsea is having visions of the time before the Crossing, through the eyes of Lily Mayhew (really, as a bystander of Lily’s life). Lily is the wife of a very important man in the Department of Defense (year 2046 or something like that). She is physically abused, because he gets angry sometimes. She takes pills to not get pregnant, because she doesn’t want to bring a child into the world. In pre-Crossing times, women were property and only good for having children. Lily is rich and polished, but she’s a prisoner in her miserable life.
It isn’t clear why Lily is important to the overall story, why Kelsea is seeing visions of this particular woman. So when I first started reading through the chapters featuring Lily, I was confused. Sure, I was intrigued by what I was reading (terrified and sad for Lily, but I couldn’t stop reading), but I wanted to know how things connected. The two story lines intersect towards the end of the book – towards the end, we see why Lily is so important to Kelsea’s time.
So I definitely enjoyed the new story line, despite being confused at first and wary of the strange turn of the story. Basically, Johansen is introducing a “modern” aspect to this story, whereas we all know this book is a fantasy novel. It’s cool to see the two worlds collide. A queen and a rich woman from times similar to (but not the same as) our time today. Obviously our women’s rights and policies on pregnancy and marriage are not like they are in pre-Crossing times. It just took me by surprise, to see this almost modern story running parallel to the fantasy one. Weird but intriguing!
I can see how Kelsea has grown, from cover to cover of this book. Kelsea is not the same person that left Carlin’s cottage at the beginning of The Queen of the Tearling. She has hardened, and become brutal and exacting in punishment. She is not kind or soft. She is strong and decisive, but she is rash and impulsive, with a temper and a trail of mistakes that cost her kingdom dearly. She doesn’t really realize it, but she’s becoming more like the Mort Queen in certain ways. In other ways, she’s entirely her own.
One aspect of Kelsea’s character that was explored (and I really liked this) was the question of her sexual curiosity. She’s a nineteen-year-old virgin and she’s looking for… something. And she gets what she wants, and what she is looking for. Remember how I said in my review of The Queen of the Tearling, that there wasn’t much romance? There still isn’t, but there is this physical relationship between Kelsea and another character that is rapidly spinning into something else. But that sort of thing isn’t really allowed because Kelsea is the Queen and the other person is… not a king or prince or nobleman of a sort.
Just like in book one, the world-building is very solid and easy to read and get into the story! This story is filled with gruesome, unpleasant happenings, such as maiming and rape and abuse and assault. Definitely things that come with a war, or an uncivilized brute of a man (no matter the time period), so I wasn’t surprised to see this content in this book. Just be warned.
I love the secondary characters in this series, and I really like how we get to know more about many of them personally in this particular book. We see an entirely different side to Mace, as well as Father Tyler, and even minor characters such as Andalie’s little girl Aisa. The Mort Queen is also featured. This book is written in third person limited, so we get a lot of insight of characters other than Kelsea.
The introduction of the new story line definitely helps further the overall series plot. The Mort army has reached the Tearling, and Kelsea must somehow figure out what to do to defeat the Mort Queen. Everything is linked together, and Kelsea has to decide how to use what she knows and has found out about the Mort Queen. The third book will definitely prove to be quite the showdown, especially given the ending of this book! Slightly cliffhanger-like!
Hopefully we get answers about Kelsea’s father in book three. I expect that, because hints have been dropping left and right in The Queen of the Tearling and this book. I also hope that some romance pans out because I am quietly shipping Kelsea and someone… I have theories about the ending of this series and I really hope Kelsea finds love by the end! I know this is an adult fiction novel, but I still want some sort of romance!
Just like in the first book, this one had slow pacing… I’m struggling to remember the immediate beginning of this book. But there are so many parts and scenes of this book that you will NOT forget. Gruesome and horrifying, those scenes will be burned into your brain. Good job with that, Johansen. But dang, this book was LONG!
Overall, I didn’t have too many complaints though. My heart kept breaking for so many characters because literally EVERYONE suffered/suffers. I’m holding on to the hope that there will be a nice ending for most of the characters. An innocent hope, I imagine.
I liked this book! It’s gruesome and raw and horrifying, but definitely enjoyable and interesting. But I can’t say I’d recommend it to just anyone, given the content. If you’re sensitive to things like maiming, torture, rape, abuse, assault, etc., then maybe this isn’t for you! Johansen really captures fantasy wartime at its worst. But if you’re an adult fiction fan with a penchant for fantasy, then definitely check out this book (and series). NOT for children though! I hesitate to recommend this to even young adults. ADULT BOOK, EVERYONE!
Buy it here:
Kindle Edition: amazon.co.uk