by Susannah Cahalan)
Now that “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games,” the “Divergent” series and “Twilight” have all ended — and “Game of Thrones” arrives at a snail’s pace — the book world’s main question is: What will the next blockbuster book series be?
The answer may lie with an idealistic, plain-faced 19-year-old, the heroine of “The Queen of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen, the first of a trilogy set to be released in July.
A lighter “Game of Thrones” with a female protagonist and no raunchy sex, “The Queen of the Tearling” follows Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, who must fight the dark magic of the brutal Red Queen and other less supernatural evils to reclaim her dead mother’s crown.
The buzz has already hit a fever pitch. Johansen, 36, a debut author who lives in San Francisco, received a reported “seven-figure” advance for the series. Warner Bros. then announced that they had optioned the film (a full year before the book’s publication), reuniting “Potter” dream team producer David Heyman and actress Emma Watson for the movie.
Watson will star as the princess (plain-faced, really?) and has been vocal about her fondness for the series.
“I had kind of said I would never do a franchise again, so I was desperate to hate it,” Watson said in an interview with Wonderland magazine this month. “Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep for about a week because I couldn’t put the bloody thing down. It would be fair to say I became obsessed with the role and the book. Now I am executive-producing it.”
The reactions in-house are just as strong, said Harper editor Maya Ziv, who edited “Tearling.”
“One of my colleagues read the book, loved it and left it at home. His 11-year-old daughter then read the book and loved it, too,” Ziv said.
Ziv says she read it over a lost weekend. “It just brought back the wondrous sense of reading and falling into a whole new world.”
The book takes place 300 years in the future — though it appears at first glance more like medieval times. In the Tearling world, technology is banned, castles and royalty are back in vogue and the scourge of slavery and human tracking has returned to society. Slavery, it should be noted, is done via a lottery system as an offering to the Red Queen.
Jezebel summed it up nicely: “Sounds kind of ‘Hunger Games’ meets ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ via Westeros.”
Johansen’s publisher, though quick to draw comparisons, is adamant that her world is uniquely hers. In fact, she came up with the idea for a book after having a particularly vivid dream about a group of people fleeing in boats after watching President Obama deliver a campaign speech in 2007.
“I decided to write about an idealistic monarch trying to do good in that land I saw over the horizon,” she said in a Q&A, “a lawless land still tormented by most of the problems of our current society.”
Early reviews from teen bloggers have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic, as have early reads from adults. Harper publicist Heather Drucker was eager to announce that adult historical fiction writer Bernard Cornwell gave his seal of approval in a glowing blurb (He read it in 48 hours, she says).
But some of the hardcore fantasy fans — some of whom read advance copies that were handed out at the 2013 World Fantasy Convention — are still not convinced. And many bristle at the comparison with the beloved George R.R. Martin, author of “Game of Thrones.”
“The female version of GAME OF THRONES is GAME OF THRONES,” griped one reviewer on Goodreads.
Other contenders to the ‘Throne’
“Queen of the Tearling” isn’t the only series jockeying to be the next “Game of Thrones” or “Hunger Games”:
The Winner’s Curse
by Marie Rutkoski (FSG)
The first of a trilogy revolves around a pair of star-crossed lovers in a society marred by slavery and class warfare. “It has a really developed world and a strong female protagonist,” said Amazon children’s and teen editor Seira Wilson. “I definitely see adult crossover potential here.”
The Lunar Chronicles
by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel & Friends)
The series (the third book, “Cress,” out this month) is a smart, futuristic retelling of our favorite fairytales from Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Rapunzel. “I loved ‘Cinder,’ loved it,” said Suzanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books in upstate Rhinebeck. “I sell it in my adult section.”
The Red Rising Trilogy
by Pierce Brown (Del Ray)
This is an “adult book that skews teen,” says Wilson, who liked it so much, she picked it as one of the books of the month this January. The book takes place on Mars, where classes are broken up into colors, with “red” the most oppressed and downtrodden. Enter Darrow, a “Red” who revolts. Movie rights have sold with Marc Forster of “World War Z” set to direct.
The Half Bad Trilogy
by Sally Green (Viking)
Set in a world where White witches (good) and Black witches (bad) live openly alongside humans — enter Nathan, who is 16 and a combination of both. “You’ve got the fantasy-set-in-reality element that’s so popular,” says Arielle Milstein, children’s book specialist at Word bookstore in Jersey City. “It’s definitely one to keep an eye on.”