It’s not just the number of pages in a book that influences how long it takes me to finish the thing, but also how much time I have available. I read through breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as other times throughout the day on occasion. Some days I choose to read more, others I choose to read less. Sometimes I stay up a bit later than usual to finish a book, either because I’m so into it or because I would really rather not have to bring two books to work. Some days it’s unavoidable, when I’m reading shorter books or manga volumes. Other nights I get to decide how badly I want that sleep.
Today I read The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I’ve mentioned it before, as having a distinctive title that I remembered for two years as something I was intrigued by. So when I was at the library to pick up The Swarm (remember that Orson Scott Card book I read?), I did what any reader does – I browsed all my favorite sections to see if anything else called out to me that day. To my surprise, I found both The Queen of the Tearling and The Invasion of the Tearling on the shelf. So I checked out both.
Several days ago when I was starting to plan out when I’d actually read these two books, I glanced at the inside jacket of the first book to see what the book would actually be about. To be honest, I had some misgivings the more I read. We’ve got the young heroine (19 is a bit old given the current trend towards highschool students), we’ve got soldiers coming for her on her birthday as she goes to ascend the throne…it stinks of a Hero’s Journey crossed with a Chosen One plotline. And just because the book seems to be popular is no guarantee for how good it may actually be. I’ve been reflecting on the stereotypical and cliche crap that has been most of young adult fiction lately, so I became reluctant to start reading.
But, these are library books and so I do have a time limit before I have to either return or renew them. And because, like most library books, these are hardcover, I would rather read at least one of them over the weekend and not lug it to work with me. Interestingly enough, this book has a ribbon bookmark as part of it, something that I haven’t seen in mainstream since the Dear America books, and their male counterparts. Frankly, it’s a crappy, skinny red ribbon that reminds me of the pink ones in the old New Union Prayerbooks. I remember those very well, as I spent countless services untangling all the knots in them. This ribbon doesn’t have any knots yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.
The story itself is not bad, but I’ve made several predictions to myself based on what I see. The part that I’m having the most trouble figuring out is where this world comes from. Apparently in an event called The Crossing, people from our world went (sailed, says the book) to a new land and founded several kingdoms. The leader of the expedition, or at least the people in the kingdom we’re focused on, was William Tear and he intended to build a utopia without technology. So we have medieval-level people for the most part, and yet those who know history are familiar with what electricity and computers were. And have copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Also magic is real. This is confusing and I’m inclined to think part of it is the author’s inability to consider what people in a feudal society, even one that had its roots in our own world and time, would actually understand. I may be somewhat harsh in this judgement, but there’s been no good explanation yet.
Let’s not forget, the world is Christian. There’s a healthy leavening of atheism in several main characters, but even though William Tear intended to build a secular society, the Church is quite powerful in the present. We haven’t gotten a lot of information on the people who made the Crossing, but because there was a secular intent, I have to assume that there should have been representatives of other religions on board the ships. So it makes no sense that there is only one religion.
I’ll continue on with The Invasion of the Tearling, but I’m glad I didn’t spend any money on these books. If this is meant to be more than two books, at this point it looks like I’ll keep reading the series – from the library. They’re not bad, but I don’t need them in my collection.