At the beginning of The Invasion of the Tearling, Kelsea is coming into her own as queen. She has stopped the reprehensible shipments of her people to Mortmesne, but in doing so she crossed the Red Queen, a woman of strange and dark power with a taste for vengeance. The Mort are set to invade the Tearling, and their army is much bigger and stronger than that of the Tearling. It seems nothing can stop the Mort. Invasion is inevitable.Kelsea and her troops aim to put off the invasion as long as possible and prepare for siege. Kelsea and her mysterious powers are her people’s only hope. Tension runs high as the Mort army draws ever closer. Meanwhile, Kelsea has developed a strange connection with a woman named Lily from the past. Kelsea experiences visions of pre-Crossing America, and watches as Lily’s fate unfolds. Does the key to saving the Tearling lie in Lily’s story? Will Kelsea unravel it before it’s too late?DUH DUH DUH
One of the things I loved about the first book was Johansen’s careful and quiet weaving together of the world, characters, and plot. I found the pacing to be on point for a story of political intrigue and corruption. I became so fully immersed in the world I could not put the book down. I also love Kelsea! These things remained true of the second book. For the most part.
In this sequel, there is a lot of waiting going on. There’s not a lot of big things happening, because we are waiting for the big thing to happen—i.e. the invasion. However, there are a whole host of smaller things going on that have large impact. There’s the stuff that goes on in the church (holy corrupt-pants! holy gruesomely-cruel-pants!), there’s Kelsea’s mystery fugues, there’s Lily, there’s all sorts of things—so we definitely don’t get bored.
In this book, Kelsea’s story in the present is told alongside Lily’s story from the past (all of which is well ahead in our world’s future). When Kelsea slips into her fugues, she sees Lily’s life unfold in the past. While I did find Lily’s story super interesting, and while I did find the story in the present interesting, I found the way they were told alongside one another jarring. I would get thrust into one time, becoming fully immersed and invested, only to be yanked out and put in the other. Each shift it took me a while to get my bearings. I really did really enjoy both story lines, but there was something about the way it was done that just didn’t sit right with me.
Another thing I found was that the characters always felt like they were at arm’s length—I never felt truly connected to them. Sadly I found this especially true for Kelsea in this book. I could tell that she was changing, but I didn’t feel like I knew her very well by the end. It was weird. Also, why did she have to magically become prettier? Why does she need to be pretty? And why is there so much time spent talking about her appearance? First it was hearing about how plain she was all the time, and then it became about how she was becoming less and less plain. Anyway.
Also, why was The Fetch not in it more? Sad face.
With those few gripes aside, I really enjoyed this book. I was always excited to jump back into it, eager to learn more. It was engaging and exciting, with an interesting look at the history of the Tearling—which I did not expect, but definitely welcomed! The world building is so cool and unique! It’s a strange medieval-seeming world, but it’s actually in our future! It’s not a whole new world! Well, not exactly. I’m really looking forward to finding out where Johansen is going to take it from here.
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.