I wanted to like this book, SO MUCH. Like...you have no IDEA how much I wanted this book to be amazing. I wanted another Seven Realms, or The Queen's Thief, or Lumatere Chronicles, or even The Winner's Curse. Sadly, I didn't get anything close to any of those books. Instead, I got a book that was full of inconsistencies, annoying characters, propaganda, and often just plain boredom.
The story starts off well enough, if you know some of the background. I knew going into the book that it was set in the future, but had reverted back to medieval times. This becomes evident over time, but people may be confused if they don't know that when they start. I enjoyed the beginning, with Kelsea being taken away by the Queen's Guard. Their journey was exciting, and I liked that Kelsea, though naive, was somewhat self-aware, and tried her hardest to be strong, brave, and adaptable. I enjoyed the way the guard slowly changed their opinion about Kelsea, after she proved herself to be different than her mother.
Looking at my goodreads updates, it was about page 79 when I started to get a little annoyed with Kelsea. This was about the time she started fawning all over a man who kidnapped her, beat up her Guard, and threatened to kill her. As a matter of fact, she practically swooned over every man she met. There was no romance AT ALL in the book, yet I still found myself annoyed at the romance. How is that possible? Because Kelsea spent the entire book fantasizing about a man that she knew practically nothing about, who had done nothing but tell her that if she didn't meet his criteria of a good Queen, then he'd track her down and end her. I just can't even.
There were other things that bothered me as well. To name a few:
The Mace was supposed to be this amazing Guard, who had some sort of supernatural ability to suss out people's intentions, yet he was constantly screwing up, letting Kelsea get attacked, again and again, by one of the Guard that he was close to and saw every day. He talked the entire book about how he'd "never let that happen again" or he'd never let so-and-so best him again, yet it happened over and over.
Then there was Kelsea herself. She's supposedly so learned. She spent her entire life being taught lessons, and scouring thousands of books, yet she's never heard a cuss word before? Because there's no cussing in books...
Also, she has a necklace that she's worn her entire life, that kind-of has a mind of it's own. Other people are familiar with the necklace, but when it starts doing strange things, she doesn't question it at all. She never asks anyone about it. I would think, if I had worn a necklace my whole life, that everyone seemed to know about, and it started glowing when I got angry, that I would be like, "Hey! What's up with this glowy necklace thing? Anyone happen to know why it's on fire?" But....apparently not Kelsea.
Then there were the "villains" of the story. I don't know about you, but I find that most people have reasons behind why they've done the bad things they've done in their lives. Other than, they're just evil. The villains in this story were so.....Disney. They're just bad for the sake of having someone for Kelsea to fight. The "Red Queen" was absolutely vile, because she just was. Kelsea's mother was repugnant, because she just was. Kelsea's uncle was completely despicable, because he just was. The only one that had any kind of depth was one of the Gate Guards.
And speaking of gratuitousness. I felt like all the rape and child sacrificing was just in there for shock value. There's a woman who Kelsea finds bound to her uncle by a rope, who has been repeatedly raped, forced to perform horrible sexual acts, and otherwise abused. When Kelsea comes in and "saves the day" this woman changes in an instant. Now she's perfectly happy and teaching the children. Apparently she wasn't too torn up about it.
Then there was the fact that everything was just too easy. Anything bad that happened to Kelsea was just magically resolved, easy peasy. People want to kill her as a baby? No problem, she just hides in a house where nobody comes to find her, even though it would've been easy if they actually tried. She gets attacked by the Caden (who never, ever fail)? No worries, the Fetch shows up just in time. An assassin sneaks in puts a knife to her throat? Oh! Glowy necklace saves the day! The bad guys haul off a batch of people and set them on fire? Glowy necklace to the rescue again. There's a traitor in the Guard? Well, let's just ride that one to the end of the book when suddenly, for no apparent reason, they all just magically figure out who it is. Everything was just WAY too easy.
The thing that bothered me the most, though, and the thing that probably made all the other things stand out even more (because I probably wouldn't be so picky if I wasn't so annoyed), was the blatant political agenda. I wish authors wouldn't try to "teach" political lessons. It comes across forced and incredibly naive. OH JUST FEED AND HOUSE ALL THE POOR PEOPLE! Of course! Why hadn't we thought of that sooner?! Where does the money come from? According to Kelsea..."I'm sure you'll figure it out, Lazarus." There are so many examples of times where Kelsea makes these types of statements, basically bashing certain political views, or religions, but her solutions are so incredibly stupid and unrealistic. I feel like, if she were alive today, she'd just walk into the White House, tell Obama how horrible he is because there are homeless people living in his city, and tell him that if he was a good leader, he would've let them all live in the White House with him. That's how absurd her solutions were. It was so distracting and completely pulled me out of the story. I feel like if this aspect had been left out, or at least wasn't so obviously forced, the other things in the book wouldn't have annoyed me so much.
There were things I liked about the book. I did like the idea of it being set in the future, but reverting to the past, though I'm not sure it was pulled off entirely. I liked the adventure, and I did like the Mace, for all his flaws. Kelsea had moments of likeability and moments of complete annoyance, but she's young, so I guess that can be expected. But she's also incredibly arrogant, which makes it somewhat difficult.
I feel like there is definitely room for Kelsea to grow. I think that the future books could get tremendously better, or horribly worse. I'll probably just wait for everyone's reaction before deciding whether or not I'll read it.
Have you read this book? I'd love to hear your thoughts, good or bad! But for now, I'm just going to go sit in a corner and cry over the loss of my excitement for the Tearling Queen...