The Queen of the Tearling could be described as a post-apocalyptic fairy tale. It has all the elements of a fairy tale – girl raised in secret in the deep, dark woods who turns out to be a princess and the heir to the throne. Returned to power, facing down evil-doers, and establishing herself as ruler. All of this takes place in a vaguely post-apocalyptic world – clearly there used to be technology, medicine, printing presses, schools, and other 21st century standards, but those are no longer commonly available – this society is feudal, pre- (post?) technological and magic exists.
In The Invasion of the Tearling the why and how of this emerges as the story switches back and forth between Kelsea, the Queen of the Tearling, and Lily, a citizen of a repressive 21st century America where Security monitors all citizens to “protect them from terrorists,” and the religious right has succeeded in restoring women to their proper place as chattel. In Tearling, Kelsea is struggling to protect her kingdom against the Red Queen of Mortmesne. In America, Lily is struggling against her abusive husband and to help the resistance. As they begin to share each other’s thoughts and experiences more and more it becomes clear that they are separated by time, rather than space. Lily’s now is Kelsea’s history.
This is a wonderful series. Johansen has clearly taken the fairy tale mold and blown it all to pieces. Very well written, lots of intrigue and the promise of treachery to come. The context-switching in Invasion is a little confusing at first and it’s still not clear to me whether there’s more to it than just clarifying the history of Tearling. Kelsea clearly feels that there is something she is supposed to learn from Lily that will help her with the Red Queen, but if there is it hasn’t happened so far. Perhaps in the next book.