Saturday, 5 December 2015
The Invasion of the Tearling
But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling - and that of Kelsea’s own soul - may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.
I utterly adore The Queen of the Tearling. It was hands down one of the best books I read in 2015 and easily a five star read. I was 36% of the way through The Invasion of the Tearling (thanks Goodreads!) when I feared my first DNF. About a third of the way though, I hated this book.
How can two books by the same author in the same series provoke such wildly different responses? I guess I can boil it down to a few little things, and one really big thing.
I loved her in Queen. Really loved her. A complex, strong, well written protagonist, she was easily one of the greatest YA characters I'd read. I completely understand why Emma Watson want to make the movie and play Kelsea in it! But from a unique and utterly believable character, in Queen, Kelsea has become a different person in Invasion, and not in a good way. Where before she shaped her story, here, Kelsea gets lost in it. In Queen, Kelsea used her magic to summon a flood to wash away enemy forces and save her people. In Invasion she uses it to make herself thinner and prettier. She's petty, using her power as queen to put people she doesn't like in their place, busy gazing at her refelction in the mirror as she drops weight and trying to jump into bed with her guard to prove a point. There's a self harming subplot too which is so insultingly simplified I'm not even going to touch it in this review. It's a post all of it's own. The constant "who's her father?" question gets pretty tedious too. Seriously, this plot thread has been stretched to breaking point. Whoever it is, after two books of dragging it out without any new hints or information, it's going to be a let down.
A lot's been made of the dual narration, flipping between Kelsea in the present and the mysterious Lily in the past, this new plot thread detracts from the story rather than enhance it. It makes for a slightly strange read too, with the story switching between fantasy and dystopia which didn't quite work for me. The stories didn't seem to intertwine until the very end and made me feel like I was reading two different books simultaneously and, as is always the risk with dual protagonists, I wanted to read about one more than the other. There certainly wasn't as much tying the two women as the blurb made me expect, their stories almost inconsequential to each other unless I missed something! The gratuitous sexual violence gets tedious too. Where it was well done in Queen, showing the harash realities of war and poverty, in Invasion it feels exploitative and cheap. Kelsea's emerging sexuality is well handled thought, and it's nice to see a YA book portray a realistic sexual relationship without immediately punishing the heroine by having everying kick off in the plot. Victory dance!
I'm glad I didn't give up on this book though, because as the invading Mort armies close in, the story picks up. Kelsea seems to snap out of her sulk and develop as a character rather than regress to a stroppy child. I just wish this didn't only start to happen halfway through the book! The real danger to her comes not from the approaching enemy forces, but from Kelsea herself. The scene where she literally rips another character to pieces is stunning in its brutality and terrifying in what it means for Kelsea as a character. The tie between her and Lily becomes a little clearer, it doesn't stop their chapters feeling like entirely different stories, but both are engaging - although I have to admit I found myself looking forward to reading Lily's story more than Kelsea's!
I was a bit let down by the ending, not quite as hooked as I was by Queen for the sequel. Kelsea's story kind of peters out. Without giving too much away, three years?! That's nothing! What happens after that? Nothing's been resolved! And Lily's story, whilst genuinely sweet and redeeming, just seems something that should have been left for a prequel or novella. All in, until about a third of the way through, this review was looking to be a one star affair. Then about midway through, it became 5 star un-put-downable. At the end, it levelled out to good but not great three stars. The problem is, my issues with pacing and character motivations aside, this book is just too good for a middle of the road 3 stars, but my frustrations won't let me give it 4. So I busted out Photoshop and gave my first ever half star! Seriously, I would recommend this book and series, and I'll be excitedly waiting on the final installment. It's just kind of infuriating at times. Fingers crossed for The Fate of the Tearling. I hope it's more Queen than Invasion!