The Tearling Series by Erika Johansen is a little difficult to place in any one category. On the one the series feels like it is taking place in the past with a fantasy twist. On the other hand the reader quickly realizes that the Tearling world is somehow the future of our world but a lot of knowledge and technology has been lost. This fun trilogy will take the reader on an journey to explore the current problems of the Tealring kingdom while our heroine tries to learn the lessons of the past.
Enter Kelsea; it is her 19th birthday, she is now of age and now it is time for her to assume her rightful place on the Tearling throne. For her safety, Kelsea was raised in the middle of a forest by loyal retainers who protect her from the machinations of the court. The Queens Guard come to collect her from the cottage that has been the only home she has ever known. The guard does not want to be there and Kelsea is not sure she wants to go, but duty calls.
Thomas Raleigh is Kelsea’s Uncle who has been regent all these years does not want to step down. He has hired assassins in the hopes that Kelsea will not make it to New London and assume the throne. The first part of the story is about the dangerous journey to New London and the reader sees that there is a lot of inner turmoil for our young Queen. She doubts her ability to do the job placed in front of her and she wonders if she will ever earn the loyalty of the people.
While on the journey to New London, Kelsea and her guards meet with the Fetch, a mysterious man who has a somewhat Robbin Hood feel to his character. He saves Kelsea from assassins but is undecided if he will let her live. Is this young woman any better than the Regent, or the previous Queen? The Fetch decides to give her a chance to prove she has the best interest of the kingdom at heart and helps her get to New London.
We are at the pivotal moment that will dominate the rest of the series. Kelsea arrives at her castle and there are a lot of people around, almost like a fair or farmers market day. At first she wonders if all the people are around to greet her, but no that cannot be true, she realizes. No one could know she would arrive today. So why are all the people lined up around the castle?
The reader learns that there was a war with a neighboring kingdom and the Tearling was almost destroyed. To stave off almost certain destruction, the previous Queen agreed to a truce that included sending a shipment of slaves to Mortmense (Mort) each month. At least 1/3 of the slaves must be children. No one knows what the Red Queen does with the children, but it sure cannot be good. Kelsea cannot stand the idea of sending her people to be slaves, despite the warnings of the consequences that will follow, Kelsea demands that the people in the slaves shipment be freed and the shipments will forthwith be stopped.
As I am sure anyone will understand, stopping slave shipments is good, but enraging the murderous Red Queen is bad. The treaty is broken and the Mort will surely invade. How many will die in this war? As Kelsea and her people prepare for the war that is sure to come, she takes her throne and begins to come into a mysterious power that seems to be coming from the jewels that belong to her as queen.
For the rest of the trilogy the reader will bounce between timelines with Kelsea, aided by her jewels. We see how the Tearling was founded. The Tearling people come from our dystopian future. We get to see some of the last days before the crossing. We also get to see a bit about the early years of the Tearling society as they tried (and failed) to create a Utopian society in their new home. Kelsea is desperately trying to learn the lessons of the past to hopefully save her people now and give them a better future.
The only complaint I have about the books is that the ending fizzled and seemed anti climatic given the build up. But it was an interesting ride to see this authors vision of our future and provide an alternate future for mankind that is some ways rested on people living in a simpler way that resembled the past. If you read the series, I hope you enjoy it like I did. Have fun reading.