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BOOK REVIEW: Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

| 17 July 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Bantam Press
July 2015
Paperback, £12.99
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli



“This, I think, is the crux of evil in this world, Majesty: those who feel entitled to whatever they want, whatever they can grab. Such people never ask themselves if they have the right. They consider no cost to anyone but themselves.” 

To say that Invasion of the Tearling surprised this reader would be an understatement. After The Queen of the Tearling, it was hard to imagine that the second book could be anything but samey. Yet, something made me request it… and I found myself pleasantly, shockingly surprised.


The Invasion of the Tearling has a number of things going for it that the first installment did not:

  • The heroine, Kelsea, has grown up.

In the first book, she came across as shallow, selfish and incredibly naïve, and the story suffered as a result. Such as, for example, her strop when she insisted on transporting a bunch of books to the castle, instead of watching out for her people. In Invasion of the Tearling, Kelsea has responded  to the harsh wakeup call at the end of Queen of the Tearling, the battle of the Argive Pass. With huge losses to Kelsea’s army, and a shocking revelation about her two sapphires, Kelsea realised she needed to be more than she was. From the very start of Invasion, we’re presented with a council meeting, and Kelsea’s adamance to protect her people and fight back against the Mort. She knows, deep down, that there is no way the Tearling can beat the Mort; the Mort have a huge army and a bloodthirsty queen – two things that the Tearling do not have.

“We don’t want to stretch the army too thin, Majesty. It’s a poor use of resources, this plan.”
“Must everything be a fight with you, General?”
He shook his head, clinging doggedly to his point. “You can defend your kingdom, or you can defend your people, Majesty. You don’t have the manpower to do both at once.”


  • The guards are not just her advisors, but also her friends.

The Queen of the Tearling portrayed the guards as bumbling fools who preferred alcohol and a good song over protecting their queen’s life, who didn’t do their job and looked at her with disdain. However, in Invasion, they couldn’t be more different, or improved. Mace advises her as a father would his daughter, Pen protects her and becomes a friend she can confide in, and none of them would think twice about laying down their lives for her.

“That night, for a minute, just before you came out of your fugue, you seemed to… fade.”
“Fade?” The word chilled Kelsea, but she produced a halfhearted snicker.
“Laugh if you like, Lady, but I did see it.” Mace leaned in even closer now, lowering his voice to a whisper. “Do you ever consider, Lady, that it might be better to simply take them off and throw them away?”


  • But the most important difference is the storyline.

Queen of the Tearling became almost infamous for its confusing storyline, its confusing world building, and its even more confusing turn of events. Marketed as high fantasy, this reader in particular found it confusing when things such as technology and pharmaceuticals were mentioned… only to later find out that it was, in fact, a dystopia. At the end of the book, the reader was left with far too many questions: What was the Crossing? Why did everyone speak of it so much? If they live in a medieval setting, why do they know what technology and electricity are? The list went on and on but, surprisingly, Invasion gave us a concrete answer to all those questions.

We find a lot of our answers provided in before-the-Crossing chapters. Lily lives in before-Crossing America. The world is falling apart, women have no rights, people are either homeless or living in gated communities. Everyone has a microchip tracking their every movement, and no one and nothing is safe. It’s a world full of corruption and just about ready to implode.

Being childless was a failure; she heard this message constantly, from her friends, from the minister, from the government bulletins online (the tone of these had grown increasingly panicked in the past ten years, as the ratio of poor to rich had quadrupled). There were even tax incentives now, deductions for people above a certain income level who had multiple children. To the outward eye, Lily had failed at her most important task, but she could only dissemble the shame that her friends would have felt.

As Kelsea’s and Lily’s respective stories unfold, all those questions that cropped up, infuriatingly, in the first book are answered. In almost a domino effect, the reader is able to see what the Crossing is and what led William Tear to saving only a select few people.

As they passed over the crumbling remains of the Rockerfeller Center, Lily saw that someone had lasered blue words onto the pavement where the old fountain used to be, the graffiti so large that it was visible from the roadway above. THE BETTER WORLD.


  • In Queen of the Tearling, the readers were introduced to the Robin-Hood-gone-rogue character called Fetch. Invasion gives the readers even more.

Not only do we see the Fetch once again (which raises, of course, a lot of questions while not providing many answers) but we’re also introduced to the source of the Red Queen’s power… an enigmatic, terrifying monster. Erika Johansen has managed to make this reader in particular incredibly curious about the new characters introduced, and their roles in the story as a whole. And if there’s anything this reader can’t say no to, it’s a character that is both bad and good, and can make one change their perspective over and over again.

The man’s form dissolved suddenly, coalescing into a black mass that seemed to hover in the air. Kelsea stumbled backward, her heart thudding. The mass streamed like shadow into the fireplace, falling on the flames like a curtain, dimming them and then putting them out entirely, leaving the room cold and dark.



Overall, Invasion of the Tearling is up on my list of Best Reads of 2015. It’s exciting and fast paced with an intricate plot that will make your head spin… in a good way.  I adored the characters and how they have developed since the first book, and I fell in love with Johansen’s flashbacks, as well as the strong ideals of the Blue Horizon, the rebel group leading the Crossing. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!


The Invasion of the Tearling is the second book in the Queen of the Tearling trilogy.

Steph’s review for book 1, The Queen of the Tearling, can be found here!

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.

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