Sequels are too often fillers. Second books in a trilogy that act solely as a bridge between the first and final book of the story.
That is not the case with The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. This second book in the story line expands upon the original in daring and inventive paths that will leave many readers with a powerful sense of “what the hell just happened!”
Kelsea Glynn has taken her place as Queen of the Tearling and as such, has drawn the ire of her far more powerful and deadly neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne and its Red Queen. The tribute of slaves sent from the Tearling to the Red Queen has ended and both kingdoms have lined their borders with their armies. The Red Queen and her dark magic has been warned to stay out of the Tearling by a powerful being from which she has learned her power but she cannot allow Kelsea to disobey her. The Mort army prepares to invade the Tearling and there seems to be nothing that can stand in their way.
As the war nears, Kelsea begins to fall into fugue states where she connects with a young woman who lived before the time of the Crossing. When technology ruled mankind and not magic. This woman, Lily, battles her own war. Against a brutal husband and trapped marriage. Lily is drawn into a rebellion against the tyrannical government that has become America and finds herself in line with a rebel leader by the name of Tear. The rebel leader Tear has a vision of leaving the Americas and heading back to what once was England, where the ancient powers of magic still exist and building his utopia. A kingdom that would become the Tearling. What is the connection between Lily and Kelsea and who is the Red Queen?
Kelsea, the Queen of the Tearling, must come up with a daring and dangerous plan to save her people as the Red Queen, her own nobles and the church align against her. But will the magic of the Tearling be enough to save her?
Johansen has taken a straight up young adult fantasy novel of magic and swords and kingdoms rising and falling and used that first book as a base on which to expand her novels into something so much more. It is a grand scale she is working on now as mysticism and time are crossing one another to tell the story of not only Kelsea the Queen of the Tearling but of how this kingdom was created and how it fell into such ruin. Johansen does not shy away from the politics of the class societies and failures of the dreams of socialism in this tale. Kelsea has grown as a character. Her innocence as the missing princess has morphed into a strong and powerful Queen who is beset upon all sides. Her steadfast protection of her people when all would consider them collateral damage in this war set the tone for all her decisions as Queen. Until the final one, which I will not give away, but it leads into what will be a highly anticipated and desired third book.
What makes this such an original and well written novel may be just what puts some readers off. It is not your standard fantasy young princess saves the kingdom book. It is much more than that. Johansen has dared to step outside the box with this one and clue us in on a much grander vision for her novels and I applaud her for that.
Very well done. A truly good read!