A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
As the first in a series, overall messages may develop along with the story and characters. An important theme explored in this book is judging people, and being judged by others, by how they look, and what a mistake this is. Judge people by what they say and most importantly, what they do.
Positive Role Models
Kelsea is a strong model of courage, curiosity, humility, and perseverance. She knows she's not better than anyone else, and doesn't let being crowned queen go to her head. She loves books and wants to read and learn as much about the world, past and present, as she can. She wants to govern fairly for everyone, bravely faces dangers and won't stop even dangerous tasks until she sees them through.
Skin tones and hair colors from dark to light are mentioned. A minor character is described as Black. Kelsea's body is larger than that of her peers.
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Violence & Scariness
No sexual violence is directly narrated, but there's frequent mention of rape, including gang rape and child rape, pedophilia, and sex trafficking of adults and children. Several mentions of enslaved people forced or coerced into performing sexual acts for the slave owners' pleasure. A villain orders an enslaved person's tongue, uvula, and vocal cords removed to stop snoring. Fighting with swords, knives, arrows, and maces with slightly gory descriptions of blood and pain. Gouging eyes as an interrogation technique is described in detail. Fantasy violence includes a couple of deaths using magical power and a fantasy creature that drains the blood from a boy who's 9 or 10. People burning alive include descriptions of smells and burning bodies. Separating families to send people of all ages away to be enslaved is a major plot element.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man mentions a woman grabbing his penis like a toy and "entering" the woman. A woman tweaks her own nipple wile panting in a public place. Some nonsexual nudity, including mention of nipples visible through sheer clothing and being seen by the opposite gender while bathing.
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"F--k," "s--t," "c--t," "motherf--ker," "bulls--t," "c--k," "crap," "damn," "hell," "ass," "bitch," "dammit," and "Christ."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults sometimes drink alcohol to excess with some drunken behavior shown and hangover consequences the next day. A minor character drinks whiskey frequently and to excess to forget emotional pain. A character smokes a cigarette. Discovery of an opiate similar to heroin prompts worries about a drug trade. A few scenes take place in taverns with adults drinking alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Erika Johansen's The Queen of the Tearling is the first in a fantasy series about a 19-year-old queen who's inherited a corrupt kingdom on the brink of ruin. Violence is mostly in the real world using swords, knives, arrows, and maces. Blood and pain are described with mild gore, including a detailed description of gouging someone's eyes with thumbs. Nothing's directly narrated, but rape, including gang rape and child rape; pedophilia; and sex trafficking, including of children, are frequently mentioned. Enslaved people are forced or coerced to perform intercourse and oral sex. Rare fantasy violence includes people being killed by magic power and a fantasy being who drains a child's blood. Strong language includes "c--t," "c--k," "f--k," and "s--t." Sexual content includes a man mentioning a woman grabbing his penis like a toy and "entering" the woman, a woman tweaking her own nipple while panting in a public place, some nonsexual nudity, and mild romantic feelings. Adults sometimes drink alcohol to excess with drunken behavior shown and hangover consequences. A minor character often drinks whiskey to excess to forget emotional pain. A character smokes a cigarette.
Is It Any Good?
This is a promising and compelling start to a fantasy series set in a far future in which a lot of technology and knowledge has been lost, giving it a medieval feel. Author Erika Johansen has created a vivid, detailed, and richly imagined world that's easy to get to know and to picture in your mind. A real strength lies in the colorful characters and developing relationships, especially between Kelsea and the Mace. Funny banter, serious discussions, palace intrigue, and exciting adventure keep the pages turning. The open ending and the preview of the next installment will have fans eager to continue the story.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
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