These days there is lots of flutter around Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, especially now it is going to be made into a movie starring Emma Watson as Kelsea. I liked the book, but I have already read it, in the form of The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Sure, some of the details are different, but the essentials are the same.
1. Teen girl is the "chosen one."
- Kelsea is the Queen of the Tearling, which she knows and trains for her entire life.
- Elisa becomes queen through marriage; her husband dies and she is thrust into power, but her belly jewel (more on that later) designates her as the "chosen one."
2. In order to claim her power teen must prove herself to the nobles and people of her land.
- Kelsea stops the lottery that selects tributes to be given to the Red Queen, thus winning over the people and earning the respect of important people who will protect her.
- Elisa destroys the invading sorcerers then journeys to face her enemy directly winning over the people and earning the respect of important people who will protect her.
3. Teen starts out a bit overweight and out of shape.
- Kelsea's sword training and sensible eating whip her into better shape.
- Elisa's hard travel and physical exertion whip her into shape.
4. A jewel is essential to her supernatural power.
- Kelsea's jewel hangs on a necklace and resists removal by any but her. (She even has a twin jewel she must earn.)
- Elisa's jewel is embedded in her bellybutton. It falls out when she has claimed her power through her own strength.
Key significant differences:
- Kelsea's transformation is thus far limited to one book. (Looks like there will be a second book...Invasion of the Tearling, and no second book is happy without a third so I have to anticipate that.)
- Elisa's transformation takes three.
A bit of a wake up to adults who believe adults should not read YA...if you have read this, you have read YA. Apart from a few shallow attempts to "adult-it-up" (a few expletives, references to slavery, rape, pedophilia) and the adult fiction price, Queen of the Tearling is indistinguishable from a YA story.
I enjoyed Queen of the Tearling, but I don't think there was anything new there. I may be interested enough to see the movie, but I doubt I will read subsequent books. I liked Girl of Fire and Thorns more.
- Elisa is a more engaging hero.
- The bad guys are badder.
- A bellybutton stone is more interesting than a magic necklace.
- The world building is more thorough. Too much is left out of Queen of the Tearling about how they all ended up in this land thrown back to a more primitive society than what they left. (Presumably this is meant to lure me to the next books, instead it just irritated me.)
- While the books are shorter, this forces a quicker pace. I could have enjoyed the slower pace of Kelsea's story if there were some internal growth requiring the slow down...but there wasn't.
My overall recommendation is to go with Carson's books, but if you are a school librarian looking for something similar to engage your readers, Queen of the Tearling is a fine choice, especially with the promise of more books. There is no reason not to put this in a high school library and maybe even a middle school.