Erika Johansen's The Queen of the Tearling came highly recommended by someone whose judgment I trust, so I was looking forward to reading it. And while I'm still sorting through my response, I think I liked it more than I loved it.
Kelsea Raleigh has been raised her entire life in a secluded backwoods, preparing for her eventual ascent to the throne. As both her uncle, the Regent, and the neighboring queen of Mortmesne want her dead, she's kept in hiding until she's old enough to assume the throne herself. But first, she has to survive a)getting to the castle and b) her coronation. And though she's surrounded by her queen's guard, both of these objectives are in question for much of the story. Then, if she survives, she faces the monumental task of rebuilding a broke kingdom, all while under the threat of a Mort invasion.
I thought the premise was interesting--though Kelsea's world reads more like high fantasy, it's actually apocalyptic, set several hundred years in the future after The Crossing (I'm still not entirely sure what that was), in New Europe, a world that has largely lost the technology and medical advances of our present time. I would have loved to see more about the premise explained in the book, since I'm still fuzzy on what the Crossing was, and where New Europe is in reference to today's world.
And while it took me a while to like Kelsea (initially, she didn't seem to have much personality), I found I appreciated her quiet confidence, even her insecurities. It's no easy thing to assume a throne that you've been woefully ill-prepared for. Kelsea has lots of book knowledge, but little knowledge of people and no experience with corruption. She reminded me quite a bit of Elysa, in Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorn series (down to the mystic blue gem that is her heritage).
The pacing of the first part of the book was slow, but I stayed up way too late finishing the last 1/3 or so of the book.
I don't think the book is perfect--there are some logical inconsistencies that other reviewers have pointed out, and I kept being distracted by some of the extraordinary ways blood behaved--but I think it's a good story, full of interesting and complex stakes. I'd like to see where Johansen takes this in the sequel.
Note: I've seen this book categorized as YA, but though Kelsea is 19 in the book, I would only give this to the most mature YA readers--there's a fair amount of language and violence in the book.