In case anyone had noticed… I’ve been absent. I got sick, right at my damn birthday! 😦 And I’ve been sick since. I can’t read when I’m sick, for some reason. And I was right in the middle of this book when the sickness struck!
4 out of 5
So when we left our troubled Kingdom last, Queen Kelsea had broken her treaty with Mortmesne and would no longer send her subjects to the Red Queen as slaves. You would think everyone would be pro-this. Amazingly… some were anti. I don’t get being anti-not-enslaving-people. But some people like money a whole lot, so go figure.
Everyone knows that the Mort queen is not going to stand for this, and everyone is waiting for the invasion. What they don’t know is that the mysterious “Dark Thing” has ordered the Red Queen not to. (He’s some kind of creature/person who helped her achieve her magic.) At this point, her desire for Kelsea’s gems (the blue sapphires) is so all-consuming, she has ignored his orders and begun the invasion. The army generals know there is nothing the Tearling can do. There are a few clever guerrilla type maneuvers they try, but in the end, everyone in the Tearling know the superior Mort forces are going to cut their way through the country like a hot knife through butter.
In the meantime, some stuff is going on with Kelsea. She is changing, both in physical appearance and magical ability. She is beginning to have these visions that feel like more than visions. It’s based around a woman from pre-crossing times, when America was run by this horrible president who basically brought some of what happened in Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, where women have lost all their rights are reduced to belongings. Lily lives a very protected life inside the walls… as far as from the outside world. She has money, her husband is powerful, but she has to sneak birthcontrol so as not to breed with her monster husband. Then a girl comes tumbling over the wall, a separatist from a terrorist group called Blue Horizon. And Lily begins to question everything about her life and yearning for a freedom she never knew she wanted. We learn so much more about pre-crossing America and get some answers about how we wound up where we’ve wound up. But not all of them. Gotta save some juicy for that last book, amiright?
To be honest, at first, I was kinda bored with Lilly. I thought these flashbacks dragged out the story. I did get interested, but sadly, in the 2nd half of the book, I wanted to get on with what was going on in the Tearling. The slow, inevitable troop movements, the Red Queen’s anger and desire for the sapphires, the hint of who the Dark Thing is, who the Red Queen is, and how is Kelsea going to use her magic to save everybody. Because that is what she is going to do, right? Right? I don’t want to spoil it for you… but my sarcasm is probably a good hint.
There are a lot of internal problems as well. The damn Holy Father, who is a monster, by the way, has taken over the church and is going gung-ho, torturing homosexuals, keeping women as sexual slaves, etc., while preaching fire and brimstone from the pulpit. He has this idea that Kelsea should bow to him. Let’s just say that at least she doesn’t do that. And I hate that Kelsea really isn’t doing much about him. He also fades from the 2nd half of the book until the very end. It feels very much like an unfinished thread.
Kelsea’s relationship with Mace is also becoming strained. He seems to disapprove of her – and he keeps trying to tell her to toss the sapphire’s aside. But this is the man who thinks books and printing presses are a complete waste of time and space, because he can’t read. So I think his mistrust of magic is because he doesn’t have it.
And can we talk about Ewen? He’s the son of the old prison guard, and has taken his father’s place. He’s developmentally challenged, and he knows this, and he worries that people will think he can’t do his job. He has this great well of dignity and loyalty within him, and I just loved him. I enjoyed things from his point of view. I like that when people try and pull things over on him, assuming he’s too “stupid” to know better that he gets one over on THEM.
In the whole, I was very disappointed that Kelsea really didn’t seem proactive. She left the fighting of the Mort army up to the army, knowing the Tearling army is completely overwhelmed, knowing what is going to happen. Utter doom is upon them. And she keeps going into fugue states to live Lily’s life. Why weren’t they doing more? Were they just going to lay down and let the Mort have the city? That’s what it felt like. Meanwhile, her magic is growing and she can do some pretty incredible things, and she did some pretty amazing things in the last book, but no one suggests she try and do anything magical. ????? Why the fuck not? I felt the author was thinking oh I can’t use magic it’s too easy…. then why do you have magic in your book?
But the things I loved about the series far outweigh my irritations. This is a large, sweeping world and it contains multiple points of view, and Johansen does it beautifully. You immediately know whose mind you are in, there aren’t any that feel extraneous. They all add to the whole of the book. I have to say that I hated the ending. I wanted to leap through the pages and choke Kelsea out. Obviously, I am dying for the next book already, to the point I almost regret reading the series now, and not having waited for that 3rd book. I am so glad it’s coming out in November. I will be on that like a frat boy on a Yager bomb.