Author: Erika Johansen
Genre: fantasy, science fiction
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #3
Published: expected November 29 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.
To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.
Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.
After three years, three books and a lot of pages, Erika Johansen's female-fronted fantasy series has run its course. There have been some major ups (The Invasion of the Tearling!!) and a few downs in this trilogy, but even with a less than perfect finale, I remain a fan of this author, and no less Kelsea and company. This is not a series that suffers for ambition or scope; Johansen envisioned a complicated world on the brink and then supplied a atypical female savior for that world. I love that the author sets herself so against genre trope and expectation, again and again.
The characters in the Tearling books have always been a large component of its appeal. From Kelsea's evolution from awkward teen nerd to morally-compromised Queen, to Mace's slow reveal of his checkered past, Johansen sets the board with complex and complicated people. Part of the appeal of book two was that the author spent time crafting her Red Queen into more than a one-note horror show. She also gets more screentime here in the third novel; I mostly liked seeing more sides of the villain, but she's a shadow of her former menace here. The way her personal story was concluded is a large contribution for why wasn't more than a 3-star read for me.
It's not often that book two ends up being the best a series has to offer, but that's what happened here. Though The Fate of the Tearling starts out strong as the third leg in this marathon, thanks to the lead-off from Invasion, it quickly falters out of the gate. Some of the choices the author makes here in book three are baffling. The more you think about the worldbuilding/Crossing, the less sense it will all make. It's no clearer how the sapphires work -- Tear's or Row's -- or how Tear had one pre-Crossing and yet Row found the exact same kind of ~magical sapphire in the Tearling AFTER the Crossing? Where did the Queen of Spades persona go? What time are we dealing in? I know the answers/reasons for exactly none of those things and I've read the first two books twice each and the third once.
The sad fact is that the author maybe promised a little more than she could deliver. There are so many elements at play with the Tearling series -- fantasy, post-apocalyptic, scifi, time travel?? -- and unfortunately, not all of them are executed well or even to the same degree. There's a lot of inventiveness in The Fate of the Tearling, particularly in its ending, but the more closely I think about it, the less I can believe it. The series has always verged on crack-fantasy (tm Gillian) but it's definitely best to go in with your suspension of disbelief cranked to 11.