genre: young adult fantasy
Kelsea knows who she truly is, despite being brought up alone in a cottage in the woods. She is the Queen of Tearling and while she doesn't know the real state of affairs in her kingdom, she does know enough to be aware that when her guard comes to get her on her 19th birthday, she will be riding into a hornets nest.
With her uncle acting as regent and a tyrannical neighboring queen breathing down her neck, Kelsea has no time to waste figuring out what sort of ruler she wants to be in a time when much of the worlds knowledge has been lost and she has very few people she can trust. Set in a future that feels far more medieval then science-fiction, and in a land across the water from a long-ago America, Kelsea's choices have the power to change everything.
At first I was a bit annoyed because so many elements of this book reminded me of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. However, it came into its own in a very interesting way and soon I was totally hooked. Political intrigue, impulsive and plain-looking heroine, a special jewel - it really feels like the same story retold in some ways, only significantly more dark and edgy. Not for younger teens, in my opinion (lots of graphic language). I really liked the Queen's relationships with a few of the secondary characters and the battle she's tying to fight is an ugly one but she wants what I'd want for my people: safety, dignity, education - and her efforts to try and swim against a raging tide make for a fast moving story.
I'd give it five stars if I'd read it before Girl of Fire and Throns but it's still captivated me enough that it deserves four solid stars. I've already bought the sequel, it's that good.