In case you’re not yet familiar with this series (and the first book got a lot of buzz, so I’m sure any of you that are Bibliophiles at least heard of Queen of the Tearling), Invasion of the Tearling is the second book in what I’m assuming is called the Tearling series. Goodreads does not deny or confirm this and I’m too lazy to go looking elsewhere. Partially because, after staying up an hour after my usual bedtime to finish this, I’m still not sure how I feel about this book.
Yeah. It’s one of those. It went the way of the sequel. Please beware, there may be some spoilers after the cut, though I’m going to TRY not to give anything major away while still explaining my feelings about this novel. Wish me luck, may the force be with me.
So I’ve listened to both books in this series on audiobook. The first one is narrated by Katherine Kellgren, who is one of my FAVORITE narrators (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place was just delightful thanks to her narration. And the writing. But ya know) of ALL time. I was a little disappointed with her narration in the first book in this series because she just sounded so bored with reading it the entire time. But all in all, I gushed over the first book with friends, even the fact that I kind of hated the main character Kelsea and the world they lived in kind of confused me. Despite all the medieval elements in the setting, at one point the author mentions things like cell phones, says they’re from “before the crossing” and then just goes on like ladeda and we’re left to wonder how exactly to picture this world. I could put this aside for all the other brilliance in the book.
Then along comes the second. And they do one of the biggest sins (in my opinion) that a book series can do. They get a new narrator. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
So the new lady is Davina Porter. She has a pleasant enough voice, an English accent, and she has a voice that’s mature enough to hint at her being in the mid to later half of her life. Not altogether too concerning for a narrator; it’s a bit nice, like having a favorite grandmother tell me the story (I mean this in a completely flattering way, by the way. She has a lovely voice). But then we get to the sinful part- the place she pronounces something differently than it was pronounced in the first book. I don’t specifically remember what it was, and I’m not giong back to check. But this is one of the ultimate sins in Audiobooks– WHO IS EDITING THIS AND DIDN’T NOTICE?
There’s also the fact that Davina’s voice, while pleasant, does not fit a spirited 19 year old, making it really hard to take Kelsea seriously when she’s speaking.
Okay, but on to the book itself.
The storyline of Invasion of the Tearling depends heavily on explaining the backstory of the world we find ourselves in during the first book. It explains how the world we find ourselves in is post-Apocalyptic in nature, rather than an alternate fantasy world from years long past. It covers how we got from today’s world to the world of the Tearling, the storyline unfolding side-by-side with that of Kelsea and Mace via the visions Kelsea has previously had, simply spanning time rather than distance as they previously have. The issue I have with the story here is that the vision world, from the point of view of Lily Mayhew, overtakes Kelsea’s storyline in a negative way. I can tell (and the book blurb doesn’t even MENTION the origin story or Kelsea’s visions known as “fugues”) that Kelsea and the Red Queen and the Tearling are the main storyline, and the worldbuilding Johansen is attempting to do is supposed to support that. But the whole book, at least in listening to it, felt the opposite. I felt like Kelsea was just an annoying interruption to a prequel story that was more interesting, better paced, and had mroe to offer. It felt, in the audiobook, like it was 90% of the story, but that it was somehow supposed to be a supplement. It really just made the story feel more like a draft in plot than a finished novel.
The ending, while I won’t spoil it, also bothered me. The novel answered some questions, but waited until the last quarter of the book to throw a lot of real answers at you, and it only raised more, especially in regards to the mysterious magical Sapphires and the presence of magic in a world that was once our own.
The experience of reading these books reminded me very much of Divergent- I loved the first books and allowed them their issues because I knew there was more coming and hoped it would improve and fix anything in the first that I found wrong. And then… while it had highlights, it was overall disappointing. The worldbuilding was far better in Invasion than in Queen, certainly, but after becoming so invested in the characters, it felt like a slap in the face to then be simply given so much worldbuilding and hardly any connection to the characters you’d started to know.
I do recommend reading this book, especially if you’ve read the first- but be warned. It’s not what I wanted, and I don’t feel satisfied with it. I’ll certainly pick up the next, but with some hesitation.