*This review will contain spoilers!*
'Long before the Red Queen of Mortmesne came to power, the Glace-Vert was already a lost cause.'An appropriately gloomy opening line.
You can read my review of 'The Queen of the Tearling' here, but it's only after starting to write this review that I noticed I'd forgotten to write one for 'The Invasion of the Tearling' - duh! I mean, I wrote a few words on Goodreads, but that full-length review I promised never materialised... Sorry!
The story so far...
We find out that Kelsea Raleigh is the Queen of the Tearling.
Kelsea's been hidden away in the woods with Barty and Carlin, her surrogate parents, training for life as a monarch, and on her 16th birthday the Queen's Guard come to pick her up and take her to New London, the capital of the Tear and the home of her palace.
Kelsea is plain. Kelsea wants to get the attention of boys, but she can't, because she's so damn plain. She ruminates on this a lot. (It gets boring.)
There's a monthly shipment of slaves from the Tear to neighbouring country Mortmesne. The Red Queen of Mortmesne is the BIG BAD (in this book...). Kelsea stops the shipment and starts a war. Bummer.
Kelsea has a Tear sapphire on a necklace around her throat, and this gives her powers. She uses these powers to slice and dice the people who wrong her. The recipient of this is Mhurn, a member of the Queen's Guard who stabbed her in the back at her crowning ceremony. Double bummer.
She finds out Barty and Carlin killed themselves after she left, so no one could ever use them to blackmail her. Another bumm-... Oh, you get the picture.
People get bummed out a lot in this series.
War continues. The Tearling is invaded (hence the title 'The Invasion of the Tearling') and people die.
Villages are evacuated, their inhabitants moved to New London to be held within its "safe" walls, causing an overpopulation problem. The Holy Father - big religious meanie that he is - won't let anyone stay in the Arvath, the second biggest building in the Tearling, so nearly everyone's sleeping in the streets. It's unhygienic. People die.
Kelsea sleeps with Pen, one of her Queen's Guard. Score!
Meanwhile, her sapphire magic enables her to start having visions of life before the Tearling, pre-Crossing. She sees through the eyes of Lily Mayhew, a woman being abused by her husband Greg. Lily meets Jonathan Tear and gets involved with his plot to build a new world, falling in love with him in the process. Lily's chapters are dystopian, which is one of the reasons I liked the second book so much: it was great to see what caused people to need to leave the old realm behind and find a new one, to see how our world changed so terribly and became completely unbearable. We follow Lily's story up until moments after the Crossing, her chapters spliced with Kelsea's throughout.
Kelsea dabbles in self-harm using the special cutting skills bestowed on her by her sapphire. She realises it isn't a healthy way to cope with her emotions and stops. I wish this hadn't been included at all, but at least it was actually dealt with, rather than being able to continue unquestioned and accepted indefinitely.
Because of their psychic link, Kelsea starts physically transforming into Lily. Instead of staying plain, she becomes beautiful. (Because apparently normal-looking people can't be badass queens. Sigh.) She also murders Thorne, the man who helped run the shipment in book one, because justice - no matter how harsh - must be served.
The book ends with Kelsea surrendering to the Red Queen in exchange for the Mortmesne army leaving the Tearling, after destroying the New London bridge to prevent any of the Queen's Guard from following her. The Red Queen accepts her offer, taking the Tear sapphires from Kelsea and believing all of the power held within them to be hers and hers alone.
(I'll be honest, even though I loved this book - and I mean, LOVED - I can't remember everything that happened. There are too many subplots and my brain finds it hard to retain information. If you'd like a more fully in-depth recap of what happened in the second installment, check out Book Series Recaps).
We start 'The Fate of the Tearling' with Kelsea in the Red Queen's custody, the Mace - leader of the Queen's Guard - in place as her Regent, ruling the country in her absence.
Kelsea starts having more visions of life before the Tearling as we know it, this time seeing through the eyes of Katie Rice, a teenager born just after the Crossing. She's friends with Row Finn and Gavin (aka The Fetch) who we're already familiar with from the other books in the series (and through their ominous interactions in the prologue) and here we start to get more of their back story, including the reason they're both alive hundreds of years after they should have died.
Row Finn, the man now terrorising the Tearling by abducting children and reanimating them as some kind of vampire/zombie hybrids, wasn't a fan of the Tears when the community was established. He disagreed with William Tear's dreams for the settlement, and longed to go back to the old ways of life pre-Crossing.
William Tear hires Katie to be a member of Jonathan's guard. It has to be a secret, because violence and weapons are not allowed in the Tear, so a group of recruits - including the man who will eventually become The Fetch - are privately trained to be able to protect him... If it ever comes to that. Katie and Row are best friends, but because he isn't being trained she's not allowed to tell him about her mission. The secrecy causes a rift between them that's impossible to fix.
Row dreams of taking over the town. He wants to get a sapphire just like the one that hangs at William's throat, convinced that the stone is filled with magic. He pretends to be religious, delivering stirring sermons to get the rest of the town's population on his side. Katie detests the person he's becoming, particularly because his new found faith isn't putting an end to his womanizing ways.
William leaves the Tear in an attempt to re-Cross, needing to get doctors for Lily, who is pregnant again. He dies in the attempt, leaving Jonathan in charge of the Tear, but the few people who know decide to conceal his death in case it causes uproar. Then Lily dies in childbirth after a botched cesarean attempt (as, supposedly, does her child, though this is never explicitly mentioned).
We eventually learn that Row was William's son, and his hatred of the Tear family stems from being abandoned. William favoured Lily over Row's pregnant mother, Sarah, and when Jonathan was born he appeared to be his only child.
Row kills Jonathan, a pregnant Katie flees - though pregnant with Row or Jonathan's child, we have no idea - after cursing Gavin, Row and the other's involved in Jonathan's murder, causing them to live eternally (presumably until they pay for their sins, but this isn't explicitly mentioned either).
The focus of this novel is on the flashbacks. Yes, some stuff happens in Kelsea's time, but the majority of it is linked to Row, which wouldn't make sense if we weren't getting told his back story.
Row's creepy children attack the Red Queen's palace. All of the Red Queen's people die. In her desperation, the Red Queen saves Kelsea from the dungeons, and they go on the run together. The Red Queen gets bitten by one of the vampiric toddlers, and instead of allowing it to change her into someone else, she persuades Kelsea to put her down.
Brenna, Thorne's albino friend, escapes from the New London prison. She tracks down Kelsea and attempts to kill her, but Kelsea's hapless prison guard Ewen gets in first, his innate purity stopping Brenna in her tracks. Another enemy bites the dust.
Aisa, little girl assassin, arrests her father.
Father Tyler, the priest who ran away and hid Kelsea's crown from the Holy Father, gets the crown back to her just before Row's children decimate New London. She abandons him without a second thought.
Everyone's plot lines get neatly resolved, and it does feel convenient at all!
Meanwhile, Kelsea meets her mother - the mother she thought was dead - and discovers that Mhurn was her father. Yep, Mhurn, who she killed back in book one and who seemed like such an unnecessary character. Bummer.
So we've had all of the flashbacks, and we're neatly caught up on how the Tearling came to be in its current state. The Red Queen and Brenna, two of the biggest antagonists in the novel, are dead. Kelsea is running for her life from Row and his vampire zombie offspring, and everyone is dying around her.
I mean, literally everyone. All of the named characters die. It's a mess, and it's also unemotional and has no impact whatsoever because it happens so damned fast.
Then Kelsea puts the crown on her head, and travels back in the past to talk to William Tear. He gives her a choice: become Katie, go back, risk all kinds of butterfly effect ripples and kill Row before he can get this powerful, or go back to your palace and die a bloody and painful death surrounded by all of the people you love who are also dying.
Unsurprisingly, Kelsea chooses the former option.
We flash back to the morning of the Tear assassination. Jonathan and Katie are stood in front of Row, waiting for him to kill one or both of them. Then Katie kills Jonathan and Lily - sorry, Kelsea, who looks exactly like Lily - climbs out of Katie's body, shocking the bejesus out of Row, and she kills him.
If you don't have one giant question mark for a face right now, you're doing better than I was when I read this piece of shit.
Kelsea wakes up the morning after all this hoo-ha has gone down, and she's in a small room she doesn't recognise, but subconsciously knows is her room. Her mother calls up the stairs to her. What the what?!
She looks in a mirror. She looks plain. She looks like herself again!
No one recognises her. Mace, now the chief of police, walks past her without a second glance. Pen, Pen who loved her so dearly, is now Andrew, and married with a child. Father Tyler is now Brother Tyler, offering friendly advice to the stranger on the street. And Carlin - poor, dead, surrogate mother Carlin - is the head librarian, and Kelsea's boss.
Butterfly effect in action, yo.
What did I think?
WHAT DID I THINK?!
That this was absolute bollocks.
It feels like Erika Johansen got half way through this book, realised she had no idea how to end it, so decided to wipe the slate clean. It only could have been worse if she'd done the whole 'it was all a dream' trope.
You can tell the film for the first book has been optioned, because this book was written like a film. Lots of different things happening to lots of different characters at the same time, which works on screen because you can pan from angle to the next and show everything at the same time, but just obscures meaning on the page. Too much is happening in the last few chapters, making it impossible to keep track and ruining what was a five star book up until that point.
And that's what really hurts.
I hated 'The Queen of the Tearling'. I loved 'The Invasion of the Tearling'. And I LOVED - I mean, absolutely flew through and couldn't get enough of - the first three quarters of this final installment.
- The named character deaths made sense. There was no shock value, it all furthered the plot and made sense when you looked at where the characters had come from, their motivations, their belief systems.
- We were finally getting a semblance of an explanation regarding how William Tear had powers, why his sapphires were so magical, what happened regarding the Tear assassination, and how Row Finn and the Fetch were such mythical, mysterious beings.
- The writing was gorgeous. Erika Johansen didn't end this story satisfactorily, but she told it beautifully.
- All of the characters were having redemption arcs. I hate it when minor character subplots get neglected because there's so much going on with the chosen one, so being able to switch perspectives - spend time with Aisa, Ewen, Father Tyler - was refreshing. I loved all of their chapters.
- Kelsea was finally tolerable. All the way through this series I have had PROBLEMS with her. The complaining about being plain. The complaining about not being able to sleep with anyone. The needless self-harm, the constant arguments, the teenage temper tantrums. But in this installment Kelsea grew up. She was mature and she handled things well. Even choosing to go back in time and change everything was selfless: she knew that there likely wouldn't be a monarchy in the new world, and was willing to give up her crown and throne for the good of her people.
But then THAT ENDING?
I don't finish many series, and I've talked about why. This is just another example of a series that could have done revolutionary things and chickened out at the last moment.
However, Erika does have a way with words. Despite hating the plot, I still loved the prose. Everything was beautifully described, and the wonderfully painted views of the Tearling will be engraved in my mind for years to come.
So even though I'm SO FUCKING ANGRY about how this series ended (I mean, seriously, this is the definition of a cop out!) I still have to award this stupid book three stars, because I loved the majority of it. It's just a shame that those last couple of chapters destroyed everything Erika had built.
If the ending had been a freeze frame of Kelsea about to get devoured by Row's monstrous creations - the biggest cliffhanger of all time, ever - I would have been happier. It still would have been more satisfying than this disaster.
Have you read 'The Fate of the Tearling'? Were you happy with that ending? Discuss down below: I need people to talk about this with!