Review: The Fate of the Tearling

The Fate of the Tearling
The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is…going to be a divisive book. And while that’s pretty standard for this series already — people either love it or they hate it — I think that Fate will end up being the one that can either truly drive people away from the series, or make them think “Damn…that was amazing.” And this is all based purely on the ending.

Until the true finale of this novel, Fate continues at the steady pace that defined the previous two books of this series: slow, methodical, but always full of character moments that drew the reader in. There were always tantalizing questions, little hints thrown in to maybe give you a glimpse of an answer, but never enough to make you think, “Alright, that’s it. We’re done.” There was always more. And yet this novel has the difficult job of tying up all those loose ends, healing the fraying threads, and bringing about some kind of conclusion.

And, again, this ending is going to be divisive. I’ll admit that I, myself, am still left a little unbalanced by it. There are parts of it I love — I look at it and just think, “Wow…that’s actually really gutsy conclusion.” It’s not what I would have anticipated, but it does make a lot of the actions of the characters, the unexpected POV-addition of the second book, and the all the events in non-Kelsea’s POV in this third book make much more sense. But at the same time, there are things that were lost as a result that make me sad, because change often brings with it some kind of sadness.

It is a bittersweet ending: happy in many ways, and sad in others.

If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that Johansen has done something interesting and unique with her trilogy. She crafted a non-traditional female heroine who didn’t need a romantic subplot to advance her story — if it showed up for a brief moment, great. But it was never necessary and never a focus. She created characters who were complex and interesting, oftentimes subverting popular tropes found in epic fantasy, and for that I deeply thank her, as it made the reading experience more enjoyable. And, in the end, she stuck her guns and told the story she wanted to tell, the way she wanted to tell it. Whether or not readers always respond to it, she still said what she wanted to say. For that, I tip my proverbial hat.

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