The Invasion of the Tearling is the second in the Queen of the Tearling series. I have reviewed the first volume and said it was a "fun read", and didn't so much bear comparison to The Hunger Games, as the review in Entertainment Weekly said. With the second volume I'd have to change my mind--it's a much heavier and message-driven book. The cultural commentary is brought foward by a link back to the time of The Crossing. We get a very bleak view of pre-Crossing life, even if it is privileged life, in the form of Lily Mayhew. She becomes magically connected to Queen Kelsea's life and the book goes back and forth between them. There's not a lot of nuance here--the end of America comes in the aftermath of an autocratic President who completes the throwback to a paternal, highly unequal culture. This is contrasted with William Tear's utopian dreams for "the better world", a pastoral community of equals. Queen Kelsea lives in Lily Mayhew's life through visions, and helps here survive the violence.
But we know that the reality of The Tearling is much different from William Tear's vision. It is a poor and weak country, pretty much at the mercy of Demesne and suffering from inept and corrupt rulers for at least a few generations. Kelsea inherited a complete mess. The vision and the reality are set side by side with some wondering, but no real resolution, so I'm thinking that subtlety will be coming in the next volume.
Like a lot of second volumes, this one is somewhat heavy going. The kingdom seems doomed as the far superior forces of Demesne invade and Kelsea considers bad and worse alternatives. Queen Kelsea is driven by duty but is getting farther from being a saint--her kingdom is becoming a cult of personality and pretty much everything depends on her. There's a lot of ways this can go, which kickstarts the conclusion. I will give it 3 stars, somewhat on the low end.