Jul 8, 2015

They Belong To Me, or Why The Invasion of the Tearling Was Awesome

WARNING: Seriously this time, the following post contains beaucoup spoilers for Erika Johansen's sequel "The Invasion of The Tearling." Unlike other posts where I clearly say 'spoiler warning' and only hint at certain things, this is a legit 'go away now' if you plan on reading either of the books in the series and want to remain spoiler-free. If not, read on at your own risk, but I fully plan on talking about a TON of details from the book. You were warned.

OK first off: if you haven't read the first book in this series, hereafter referred to as QOTT, you need to go do that. I started reading it after BEA last year when a friend sent me a galley and I should have known there would be galleys this year too for book 2 but I foolishly skipped BEA. I am SO glad I only had to wait a couple of weeks for the release because it was much better than I expected and well worth the yearlong wait between publications.

Here's some background if you aren't  familiar with the first book: The Tearling books follow the story of Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, the true Heir to the Tear throne and the Tearling kingdom. For most of her life she is kept hidden away from a life of royalty and leadership for fear of assassination, but is still taught the ways and means to be a great queen. When her mother, the Queen, is assasinated and Kelsea comes of age, she must assume the throne so her awful uncle, The Regent, won't hold power. Suffice it to say she does become Queen and basically outlaws the selling and trading of slaves, becomes a benevolent leader, etc. Everyone seems to like her at the end of QOTT, but she is really only a teenager and still learning about the world when she reaches the end of the first book. Sure, there were assassination attempts on her and she overcomes many obstacles, but by the end of the first book, there is still an impending conflict with a nearby Kingdom called Mortmesne and their evil Red Queen. It leaves a little to be desired.

Sounds like your typical fantasy YA right? WRONG. This is a sci-fi epic and I will tell you how that is possible.

Throughout the first book there are all of these references to "the crossing" and a past world that sounds much like our own. How can our world exist in the past if this is a medieval present, you ask? We don't get an answer to that in Book 1, but basically you read the entire book thinking you will maybe get a hint while Johansen references how there are "Tolkien and Rowling volumes in the library" and how "before the crossing there was modern medicines and technology" etc. You basically rack your brain: are we on a different planet? Was this a spaceship crossing? Did we discover a new land mass and did we cross an ocean that developed as a result of global warming? What gives?

To boot, Kelsea's world has magic. I mean, honest to god magic, in the form of internal powers and magical artifacts. So how does that work? Does this planet have magic? You have to go through about a hundred possible theories in your head until the end of Book 1 where you get no answers. Again, it leaves something to be desired.

Until book 2. Until you meet Lily Mayhew. Until you see The Crossing with your own eyes. Until you meet William Tear, the reason this Kingdom is even called The Tearling.

Obviously I won't recount he entire story for you, but suffice it to say that Kelsea's magical artifacts, the Tear Sapphires, allow her to have magical abilities. She recreates her appearance, she can cause pain with her mind, and throughout the book she frequently "travels" into the mind of a character who lives in a not oo distant future from ours (Lily). It's not exactly a dystopia, thank god, but more of a logical progression of what could happen if we gave a government official a bit too much power.

Lily lives in a future set about forty years from now, where the worst fears of the 'Occupy' movement have come to pass. In fact, the rich are now so rich that they literally build walls to keep out the poor. To boot, a security force exists to ensure that all folks are compliant with the laws of the country and if you defy them you basically get renditioned (they stick you in a cell somewhere and basically make it like you never existed). Lily is one of these rich folks, in a walled compound, with a crazy abusive husband and no reason to live because if he gets her pregnant she'll never be able to get away. The worst part is for years she thought all of it was NORMAL and she had a perfect life. And did I mention in this future it's okay for men to basically subdue their wives because women are considered subservient? Yeah, even more reasons to detest this future.

So how does this affect Kelsea? It turns out the two are connected in some way and are travelling into each other's mind. Kelsea needs answers to help with her war and Lily needs the strength to escape her awful abusive life, so the two women help achieve each other's goals.

I will say my favorite parts are when Greg dies and when the Red Queen can't use the sapphires. The phrase "They belong to me" is so powerful I wanted to high five Kelsea in that moment. And while parts of Lily's journey were obvious (of course she is related to Kelsea and of course she and Tear will have a baby and name him Jonathan) I NEVER would have guessed that the crossing was time travel. The question that remains now is have they also traveled to another timeline/dimension/world? And are they creating the future? And how do the Cadare, Mortmesne and the other lands get formed? Johansen clearly knows how to leave readers wanting more.

I really liked how Lily's story changed the dynamic of the books. I will admit that one of the first reasons I read the first book was because Emma Watson had wanted to produce and star in the film versions, but at that point I assumed it was pure fantasy. Even when you think you have them figured out, these books confuse and bewilder and enchant you,  much like the Tear Sapphires. That is why I am glad I stick with the series. I am all for a story that keeps you guessing.

I feel bad for Pen, getting the shitty end of the stick and there was also not nearly enough of The Fetch in this volume. I will say, however, that Johansen really writes a villain well. Also, she shows how not all heroes are perfect and everyone is fallible and subject to temptation.

Put simply, these are not YA books (a lot of graphic scenes that would get a warning on TV or an R rating in a theater) and not your typical fantasy or sci-fi stuff. This is an original story and that is why I think it will make an excellent film series.

If you need to escape, you should really read these books. They're fun, scary, romantic, adventurous, and just well-written. I recommend them for people who were dissatisfied with their last fantasy novel. They are a breath of fresh air.

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I am currently on my choice for Book 4 of the 10 in 10 Challenge, "The Maze Runner" by James Dashner, so I hope to finish that in the next few days. I am also a bit behind in the HP Rereading Group, but I should have my first ten-chapter wrap-up for Chamber of Secrets very soon. Stay tuned and Happy Reading!