She was raised in isolation by a pair of loyal family retainers due to the suspicious death of her mother Queen Elyssa, famed for her beauty and very little else in the way of intelligent leadership. Another key factor in keeping her location safe even from her uncle(who became the Regent) was the Red Queen of Mortmesne, the seemingly ageless ruler of a neighboring empire whose powers are feared far and wide;
During her journey towards New London, she discovers some harsh details about how things have been for her people under the reign of her corrupt uncle, in part due to meeting The Fetch who runs a band of not-so-merry men that do their level best to undermine the severe poverty and lack of resources that would improve life for citizens of the Tear.
An even uglier surprise greets Kelsea as she reaches the city and heads for The Keep(where Tear monarchs hold their place of power) and that is the price of peace between the Tear and Mortmesne; monthly shipments of people to be sold as slaves. She may not be as sure and strong as she would like to be,yet when faced with such an evil, Kelsea knows initially how to act. Her first stance as a ruler is to stop the shipments and her queen's guard is not the only method of persuasion she has at hand:
Cleaning up the messes that her foolish mother and weak willed uncle have made over the years is a difficult task but armed with the desire to use her book smarts(as well as a magic sapphire necklace bequeathed to her),Kelsea feels that she's up to the task.
One big problem is in getting her own men to trust in her judgment, particularly Lazarus a.k.a. The Mace, whose fierce warrior skills and loyalty make him a great asset but his persistence in believing that he knows more than she does in certain matters does give Kelsea more trouble at times than the plots and schemes of all of her enemies combined.
Mace means well but his overprotective nature(not to mention dislike of books) can get in the way of what Kelsea needs to do. It becomes more complicated when she gets wind of dire plans that threaten the Tear from supernatural sources and just when she needs complete trust, her men are strongly reluctant to follow her lead:
This novel is meant to be the first in a trilogy and the film rights have already been sold(with Emma Watson intended for the lead). I can see why this would make a great movie but I also can see why Queen of the Tearling will make for an engaging series of books.
The writing is smart and solid, allowing other character viewpoints to accent the central plot, and by making Kelsea a princess with "plain" features who has been taught to use her intelligence yet still wishes to be just a girl in love makes her very relatable to many readers. She's not simply a figurehead role model; Erika Johansen depicts her leading lady in a powerfully human light and her adventures are a rollicking read.
I don't know when the second book is due out but Queen of the Tearling will be released on July 8 and if you're a fantasy fan eager to meet another amazing literary heroine along the lines of Brienne of Tarth or Arya Stark, I think you will be pleased to meet Princess Kelsea of the Tear: