The Invasion of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen

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Four stars, read in August 2015.

Regardless of how I feel about various plot developments, I hated for this book to end. It’s even worse than when I finished the first, because I read that only two months before this was released, and now I know I’ll have to wait a long time before the third comes out. I just wish I could keep reading.

I didn’t struggle with the perspective switches between Lily and Kelsea, the way many people did, and I thought their connection was an interesting way to answer all our questions leftover from the first book, about the plausibility of Kelsea’s world even existing. I was skeptical of Lily’s story for a while, not least because I’m totally out of patience with dystopia, but I was sold in the end. What I had trouble with was all the queens—there are at least six who are regularly mentioned, and when one queen talks to another queen while thinking about a third or fourth, I have to do some backtracking to follow the thread. This, however, is an awesome problem to have (too many queens!), so I’m not complaining.

The thing with Kelsea’s appearance . . . It doesn’t really make sense to me. Was it just a kind of fantasy fulfillment on Johansen’s part? The transformation is pretty well examined, though, and all the conclusions seem to be negative. Kelsea knows early on that it’s a false thing, that she wants no part of people who would like her better now that she’s prettier. There’s also a clear connection between the physical transformation, Kelsea’s increasing brutality—although not necessarily, I don’t think, her increasing power—and [ SPOILER ALERT ] the Mort Queen’s own similar transformation, maybe even Rowland Finn’s [ END SPOILER ]. I think the power would have been hers anyway, but the beauty and the “dark thing” both signal changes into someone that isn’t necessarily herself. So then was that the point? The implication that beauty is a dangerous, destabilizing power? Because that’s really not okay, either. So I’m left wondering why that particular aspect of the plot was included.

This has the feel of a trilogy, but I kind of hope it’ll end up being longer. Kelsea is a thoughtful character with a lot of depth, and I love her story. I love the supporting characters like Lazarus, Father Tyler (who I’m anxious to hear about), Asia, Pen, and Ewen. I’m looking forward to seeing where they all go.

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