Book Review: The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title: The Fate of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Published: 2016
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

 My Rating: 8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt
So… this is a definition of a book that jumped the shark.

I want to be clear that the only reason I am giving this book a 3 stars is because of Kelsea and the Red Queen because otherwise I would have angrily stamped a 1 star on this one and not been sorry.

We left off in book 2 with Kelsea being taken prisoner by the Red Queen, the Mace being placed at regent and in the flashbacks, William Tear and his followers make a jump in time/space and land in the Tearling. Book 2 was a solid book, we got historical context, we got world building and we had two compelling protagonists in Kelsea and Lily. We also had a solid antagonist in The Red Queen along with the mystery element of the creature/man that appears to Kelsea. We also had the horrible, despicably Holy Father that was written to well I felt my blood boiling towards him. The Fate of the Tearling pales in comparison to its predecessors and makes for a poor and greatly disappointing conclusion to what is otherwise a wonderful trilogy.

The Excellent:

  • The winning storyline written amongst all of the storylines is that of Kelsea and the Red Queen. From the beginning of this trilogy we have been building up to how Kelsea and the Red Queen will face off and we finally get many scenes of the two, they have the most chemistry and for a moment there I thought we were going to get some femslash – honestly at this point her relationship with the Red Queen and the Mace were the two strongest ones because Johansen, despite setting up Kelsea to have a connection with The Fetch in book 1, really leaves that thread hanging in the wind by book 2. However, despite enjoying the humanization of the Red Queen, she’s gone 60% in and leaves little in terms of effect. The Mort become mercenaries and what of the people of the Mort? Do they even exist in the alternative universe Kelsea created?

The Frustrating:

  • There were a lot of storylines that in retrospect we have to ask ourselves ‘so what’? Storylines like the prisoner who invented the printing press, we get excited, there will be books again but it’s a moot point. Of course this is all to do with that ending because most of the people became obsolete, their struggles became obsolete, their hopes and dreams became obsolete.

The Goddamn Awful:

  • Stretched too thin/bit off more than she could chew, by the 3rd book we have a hell of a lot of characters and those characters get POVs. By the end of the book, despite giving those characters POVs, they get no say at the end so when Kelsea sort of ‘wipes the slate clean’ and we get an alternate utopia those people’s POVs become nonexistent. It was a disservice to The Mace, it was a disservice to Javal, it was a disservice to all of them that fought and struggled to save the Tearling. We are even told that some of them might not have even been born. How about the Holy Father? He was elevated to such an antagonist in the 2nd book and this book he has 1 scene and then Kelsea destroys the church in a paragraph and we move on. Homophobia is not addressed leaving me asking why the hell was it even brought up in book 2?
  • The ending. Johansen basically Dallased her way out of the plot and that was a massive mistake. We got such a clean and contrived ending that… we were cheated. A lot was risked to save the Tearling, people died, people were going to die but suddenly we get this magic wand ending where we’re not sure if it really happened, if there’s even real magic or did Kelsea really save everyone? She wakes up and she has a loving mom, she has books and she lives in Utopia. Needless to say, I call bullshit on that decision. You have to be brave enough to write the bad ending where there’s sadness and sacrifice. And maybe Kelsea would not have made it, maybe Mace would have died in her arms, maybe we would have cried our eyes out but that is the risk you take in a journey and it was a stolen from us. That ending made a lot of people who were given a voice not matter.

I’ve been trying to piece together my thoughts since last night when I finished and I have come to the sad conclusion that Johansen might have not known how to end this trilogy. It’s sad because up until the final chapter she could have easily brought this to a satisfying conclusion with the addition of one simple chapter or two. After reading this I have to ask myself if maybe she should have just written a duology. There is no doubt in my mind that Johansen can write; she wrote those scenes between the Red Queen and Kelsea to perfection, she wrote some seriously amazing things in the first 2 books but something happened in this book, it was lost in the shuffle of a contrived plot.

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