Review of The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Johansen offers peeks at her characters' pasts as well as the forces that shaped the Tearling, and she plays with time and reality to create an ending to the trilogy that I didn't anticipate.
The Fate of the Tearling is the final book in Erika Johansen's Queen of the Tearling trilogy. The first two are The Queen of the Tearling and The Invasion of the Tearling, and there's a recently published prequel, Beneath the Keep.
In current-day Tearling society there's oppressive wretchedness (human trafficking, child sex slaves, and a literal underground warren of nefarious activity, “the Crèche”).
In the timeline set farthest in the past, we see a faulted but idealistic society built around William Tear’s vision that everyone is special in their own way but equal in importance. But while William Tear inspired a (fragile) cult of personality, his heir and son Jonathan is no politician--he's not a gifted public speaker, more of an introvert, thinker, and philosopher who doesn't care to endear himself to the public.
Visions and magically determined predictions guide decision-making for both leaders and their guides. Meanwhile the Orphan, a grave-robbing monster making zombies of children, lurks in the night, threatening the stability of the hard-fought status quo of the Tearling and placing every citizen's safety in danger.
I very much enjoyed harking back to the childhoods of the Fetch, Row Finn, and Jonathan Tear to better understand their motivations and the experiences that shaped them.
The elaborate escape plans and rescue plots in the book were one of my favorite elements. I also loved seeing two strong, clever, diametrically opposed queens savvily playing with the lines of trust and manipulation. The nemeses come to understand each other more deeply in an unlikely situation, and it was an evolution I found fascinating.
“Empathy. Carlin always said it was the great value of fiction, to put us inside the minds of strangers.”
Christianity is presented as a swift, sweeping, destructive force in the Town without offering any redemption or morality to its followers, who are essentially presented as simple-minded. I was frustrated by the determinedly held secrets of the Crossing that prevented younger generations from learning helpful lessons from history and understanding their ancestors' mistakes and successes.
Johansen plays with timelines and offers a shifting reality at the end that I didn't at all anticipate. I have mixed emotions about this ending for the story--it felt a little anticlimactic in its "undoing" of prior events and was an enormous departure from the tone and feel of the rest of Johansen's trilogy. I already miss my favorite characters from the series.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
I mentioned this book in my review for the trilogy's prequel, Beneath the Keep. It turned out to be really helpful for me to read this ending to the trilogy before delving into the prequel because I'd read the others in the series a while ago.
The Fate of the Tearling also appeared (along with The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda and I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman) in the Greedy Reading List Three Books I'm Reading Now, 2/17/21 Edition.