Erika Johansen, The Invasion of the Tearling. Bantam Press, 2015.

Right. So I found Johansen’s first book, The Queen of the Tearling overhyped but generally enjoyable. Its characterisation was engaging, even where its worldbuilding failed to be anything but confusing (and seriously lacking in representation: hi, fantasy, stop writing as though white people are the only people).

The Invasion of the Tearling? Lacks that element of engaging characterisation, save in brief snatches. This makes it far more tedious. It also has no clear narrative through-line. The main character is having visions of a near-future Handmaid’s Tale-esque America from her Fantasylandia, and while this vision strand is the most compelling thing about the book, it is inescapably rapey, America-is-the-whole-world, and fairly ridiculously nonsensical, and it fits poorly into the rest of the narrative, which as a whole lacks thematic coherence as well as coherence of plot.

Also, the “invasion” narrative would have made me hurt myself laughing if it weren’t so tedious, because it’s painfully obvious the author has absolutely no idea how combat, warfare, or logistics actually works. (Why are you resettling refugees around a city you expect to be under siege shortly? How the fuck are you going to feed them? For that matter, why is the enemy standing around staring at you when they could roll right over you?)

Anyway. It’s disjointed, and bad, and even less coherent on a thematic level that Queen of the Tearling, which at least had a nice little coming-of-age story to recommend it. (It’s hard to fuck up a traditional coming-of-age story, and there’s a reason they’re popular.)

Books in brief: Milan, McCarry, Johansen

Courtney Milan, The Suffragette Scandal. 2014. Kobo ebook.

Another excellent historical romance, this time set in the 1870s, from Courtney Milan. One of her best to date, I suspect.

Sarah McCarry, All Our Pretty Songs. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.

Read for inclusion in the column. Debut, lyrically written, very decent book.

Erika Johansen, The Queen of the Tearling. Bantam Press, 2014.

Read for inclusion in the column. I have conflicted feelings about this novel. On the one hand, I enjoyed the story, and the characters, and on the whole it cheered me up on a day where I was feeling rather gloomy about reading anything. But once I’d finished it, I realised the story took place in a very white, straight, cisgender world – and that made me sad all over again.