Once in a while, we here at New Books in Historical Fiction like to branch out. This month's interview is one example. Erika Johansen's bestselling Queen of the Tearling (HarperCollins, 2014) blends past and present, history and fantasy, to create a future world that by abandoning its advanced technology (including, by accident, medicine) has reverted to a society that more resembles the fourteenth century than the twenty-fourth.
The world of the Tearling is not exactly the Middle Ages revived. The inhabitants know that life was once different, even though books have become scarce and computers nonexistent. They have learned the story of the Crossing, when a few thousand dreamers disgusted with the social stratification and environmental pollution around them decided to leave it all behind and start again on the other side of the Atlantic. And their idealistic young queen, Kelsea--raised in hiding to protect her from the savage politics of the center--yearns to restore her realm to the democratic and egalitarian principles of the founders. Assuming, of course, that she can survive on the throne long enough to establish her right to rule.
But treachery threatens Kelsea from within and without, by means military and magical. The greatest danger comes from Mortmesne, the kingdom to the east, where the Red Queen has ruled for more than a century. Kelsea's first action as queen puts her on a headlong collision course with the Red Queen, with consequences that play out in book 2, The Invasion of the Tearling, due for release in June.
In The Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen has created a thought-provoking and entertaining coming-of-age saga that both historical fiction and science fiction fans can enjoy.