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Friday, August 7, 2015

"Invasion of the Tearling: Queen of the Tearling 2" by Erika Johansen (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman and Joshua Redlich)

Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Queen of the Tearling Here 


OVERVIEW: 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

FORMAT: Invasion of the Tearling is the second book in The Queen of the Tearling Series. It is an adult fantasy/dystopian novel. Trigger warnings should be given for scenes of self-mutilation, rape, spousal abuse, anti-homosexuality themes, genital mutilation, and spousal rape.

The novel was published June 9, 2015 by Harper. It stands at 515 pages.

ANALYSIS: (Cindy) It is a rare book that makes me feel so many conflicting emotions. Upon completion of Invasion of the Tearling, my emotions were all over the place. I was angry, upset, confused, yet I struggled with happy emotions too, as I realized I read a well-thought out, imaginative second novel in a series that was, in some parts, enjoyable and a quick read.

Queen of the Tearling, the first novel in the series, was dark. It certainly wasn't a light, fluffy read, but there wasn't a whole lot of graphic detail of the darkness that was going on. It was mostly 'there were rapes and killings in the town over there' type descriptions. Invasion of Tearling unexpectedly upped the ante in regards to darkness and grittiness.

Invasion of the Tearling goes into fairly graphic detail on some pretty heavy subjects. Everything from self-mutilation/cutting and genital mutilation of homosexuals to spousal rape and the views of women as property/breeding grounds, was thrown into this novel. While I am not opposed to grittiness and darkness in novels, it almost felt as if everything was being thrown in to make the book more dramatic, more adult and not really done with a reason. There were many people who kept comparing the first book to YA books, so I almost feel as if this was added to make it distinctively 'adult'.

A huge example of this is the introduction of Lily's husband. Lily's husband is evil. He is bad, rotten to the core. In order to portray just how bad he is, readers are given a graphic and a bit uncomfortable rape scene of his wife. This was in addition to the multiple lengthy descriptions of his previous spousal abuse/rapes.

Again, my issue was not with the subject content as I realize every individual will have his or her own opinion on whether or not the use of rape/spousal abuse was necessary to make Lily's husband bad. My issue was with the fact that literally no warning was given at all that the book would have this type of turn. It was a complete turn from the first book in which things were dark, yet not graphic.

Another issue I had was with the sudden and unexpected introduction of Lily's scenes. One moment readers are in the Tearling, the next and with no warning we are transported to Manhattan. Who is Lily? What is her role in it? It was very jarring and very unexpected. Lily's scenes eventually even out and sort-of mesh with the story, but it was a struggle there for a while when it first was introduced. For a while, it really felt like I was reading some sort of weird mix up of two books because they were that disconnected.

Despite my rather dislike for some parts of the book, I will say I didn't hate The Invasion of the Tearling. There were obvious parts that disappointed me and made me a bit sad that the series would take a turn like this, but I did enjoy the fantasy aspect of the Tearling thus the conflicting emotions that I felt when I completed the book. There were parts I enjoyed, but the parts I didn't enjoy I really, really did not enjoy them.

I struggle with what to expect in the third book. I am not looking forward to it as much as I was this second book. However, I do think I would continue with the series only to see where the series is taken.This is a novel that people will love or they will hate, I am not sure there is much room for a middle ground here. 

ANALYSIS: (Joshua) I enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling, but I loved The Invasion of the Tearling.

In her first book, Johansen sets Kelsea Glynn’s war with the neighboring Red Queen of Mortmesne into motion; yet while the book manages to keep readers interested and engaged, it never feels like there is much at stake. The narrative might tell us how horrible the first war with the Red Queen was and how the Tearling doesn’t stand a chance against her, and it might mention that the church is powerful and has values that conflict with Kelsea’s own, but neither opponent is ever really shown having the upper hand. In fact, the first book ends with a triumph for Kelsea. Furthermore, the book doesn’t keep the outcome of the war a secret, providing quotes about Kelsea’s triumph at the start of each chapter, each one taken from a text published after the events of the story. As such, the primary motivator for readers to continue the series is not so much to learn about what happens, but to gain answers as to what already happened, such as the legendary historical event known as The Crossing, the origin of the mysterious amulets in Kelsea’s possession, and the identity of Kelsea’s father and the enigmatic Fetch.   
Invasion changes all of that, upping the series’ ante significantly.

On one hand, the story possesses all of the best qualities of the first book, with a fast-paced and action-packed narrative, engaging characters, and more details about Johansen’s unique and fascinating world. But Invasion not only continues to do everything its predecessor did well, it also raises the stakes in the war between Kelsea and the Red Queen, leading readers to finally doubt if Kelsea will actually be able to succeed in her efforts, despite the quotes at the beginning of each chapter that say she does.

While the war itself takes a turn for the better (for the reader if not for Kelsea), the most exciting part of the book was still the Crossing. In The Queen of the Tearling, Johansen offered little tidbits of information that made it clear that the events of the series take place sometime in the future, and the Tearling was settled by Americans and Europeans after they made their way there in what has since become known as The Crossing. But what The Crossing actually was, how magic suddenly became a reality, and many other questions remained a mystery. While Invasion still leaves many questions unanswered—and adds some new ones to the mix as well—a great deal of the book is actually spent on exploring the events of The Crossing through visions of a pre-Crossing girl named Lily that Kelsea has unexplainable visions of. While there is so much happening throughout the novel, from confrontations between Kelsea and the church to the rapidly advancing army of the Red Queen, it was always the next scene with Lily that I found myself looking forward to most.

I will warn readers that while this is generally considered a YA novel, there are many scenes that contain adult content that is quite dark, all of which could easily occur in George R. R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire series and still cause readers to cringe. Yet for me, these scenes never seemed out of place, and based on the situation and characters involved in each of these episodes, their occurrence was quite realistic.

The Invasion of the Tearling is one of those rare sequels that are even better than the first, and readers who found it difficult to wait for this installment in the series will find it impossible to wait for the next.



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