Conservative is a loaded term. What once meant traditional, quiet, steady, demure, and prim, now means reactionary, right-wing, and hidebound. So, when I say that The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is conservative, which it clearly is, I’m references the former and not the latter. It is not, as its copious marketing copy proclaims, a ‘bright new entry in the fantasy genre’, but a capable retread of the form.
Set in the distant future, after an undescribed cataclysm, Queen of the Tearling’s Earth has fundamentally changed. A second dark age has emerged, where sickness and hunger, slaves and serfs, and violence and despotism reign again. Once a country of modest freedom, Tear has become a place of fear as the dead Queen’s brother rules as regent, steeped in liquor and slaves. Kelsea, Johansen’s protagonist and primary viewpoint, is Tear’s last hope. Now nineteen, she will leave everything she’s known behind to assume her long dead mother’s throne. Nothing resists change so well as one who rules, and her uncle has other ideas. With the Queen’s Guard at her back, Kelsea must survive her uncle’s plot to even have a chance to make things right.