The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

4 Stars

I really enjoyed The Invasion of the Tearling, the second instalment of the series written by Erika

Johansen. It’s an exciting and strong return to this world and it surpasses the previous novel, The

Queen of the Tearling, in many ways. Johansen has built on everything that was created in the first

novel giving us strong rounded characters with motivations that are believable. The plot is teased

out and expanded with a flow and tempo that keeps the reader engaged.

Our main character, Kelsea, has grown up. We see her making the decisions of a ruler in a

thoughtful and fair manner. The supporting cast each have distinct characters with motivations and

agendas of their own. The Red Queen is not merely the evil protagonist; she has fears, desires,

sorrows and weaknesses. She is in a much more precarious position that she allows people to

believe.

We are introduced to a new cast of characters through a series of flash backs that Kelsea

experiences. We are taken back to the time just before the crossing. Johansen’s prose really shines

in this dystopian world, so much so that I wished I was reading a novel based solely in this futuristic

dystopian America rather that the novel based in the medieval Tearling society.

The two story-lines are woven together and both plots unfold simultaneously. They complement

each other and work to answer many questions that we were left with at the end of the previous

novel.

This story touches on areas that are a lot darker and grittier than we previously experienced.

There are elements of terrorism, religious intolerance, domestic abuse, rape, child trafficking and

self harm. Most of these points work to move the story forward, they are shown in the light they

should be, as things that are bad and should not happen. However in my opinion, Johansen’s use of

self-harm was questionable. I believe this is a dangerous message to

send out into the world and would have preferred if Johansen could have cautioned against self

harm in some way in the novel.

I was slightly disappointed by Kelsea’s change in appearance and by her weight loss. One of the

things I really respected about The Queen of the Tearling was that it had strong hero who was not

traditionally beautiful or skinny. As The Invasion of the Tearling progresses, Kelsea slowly

begins to lose weight, her face changes to become beautiful until she eventually resembles Lily, the

woman from the flashbacks. Although the change seems to have some greater purpose to

the overall story and is not merely due to Kelsea’s need to be beautiful, I still wish that Kelsea did

not have to become beautiful and skinny in order to progress the story. Now we have yet another

story that tells young women that they must become skinny and beautiful in order to progress

though life.

The sapphires are a key part of this story. They fuels Kelsea’s change in appearance. They are

responsible for the flash backs. They give Kelsea her magical abilities. They allow the crossing to

happen. They are the Red Queen’s main motivation. However, we never get any explanation as to

why they are magical and why they are so powerful. Some explanation about the magical system

would have gone a long way to help the reader believe that these sapphires could actually exist. I

would have appreciated a little more knowledge in this area.

Overall the Invasion of the Tearling was a fantastic read. It punches well above its weight. It

exceeded many expectations and has left me anticipating the next installment of this series.

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