Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn has just turned 19, and it’s time for her to ascend the throne of the Tearling. But being the ruler of this kingdom is not exactly an enviable position. Competition for power is fierce — so much so, in fact, that Kelsea has been raised in exile and must be escorted to her palace by the Queen’s Guard, an elite group of warriors, in order to protect her from assassination. Her uncle, the regent, almost certainly wants her dead, and he is far from the only person in the Tearling who doubts Kelsea’s ability to rule. Most threatening of all, however, is the menace of the Red Queen, a powerful sorceress who rules the neighboring kingdom and has begun expanding her empire. Kelsea is shy, bookish, and plain — seemingly the last person in the world to make an effective ruler. But her strong sense of justice and the help of a few loyal allies eventually enable her to claim her throne and even — perhaps — to keep it, as she makes her first move to challenge the Red Queen’s supremacy.
I quite enjoyed this sword-and-sorcery novel, although the plot is certainly far from original. Kelsea is a relatable fantasy heroine, not particularly gifted at swordplay or magic, but grimly determined to hold onto her birthright and (essentially) not mess things up too badly. I also loved the basic premise that she has to win a place for herself in a situation where so many different factions are arrayed against her. I’m a sucker for a good political intrigue, and this book sets up a lot of different possible enemies who I’m sure will become more important in the sequels. The actual plot of this book is a little weak, in my opinion. The Red Queen is so over-the-top evil that I found her more annoying than threatening; I’d much rather see Kelsea deal with her internal foes than focus on defeating this “big bad.” But I want to spend more time in this world, especially to learn more about the Queen’s Guard and the Fetch. So I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel, The Invasion of the Tearling, one of these days!