The Queens of Innis Lear
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Page count: 576
Goodreads: See here!
Plot at a Glance:
A kingdom at risk, a crown divided, a family drenched in blood.
The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes.
The king’s three daughters—battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia—know the realm’s only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted.
Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war—but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided.
It’s been awhile since I’ve really challenged myself with a proper adult high fantasy novel, and I can proudly say that I’m glad it was this one that I took a chance on. A retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Queens of Innis Lear faithfully draws on the same interpersonal conflicts between complex, morally gray characters found in the original play,but also infuses their world and societies with a breath of magic that serves to elevate the characters in surprising ways.
Make no mistake, this is a novel that makes you work to appreciate it. It likely helps to have at least a cursory knowledge of King Lear before you start – as part of the fun for me was watching the ways in which this book paid respect to its source material, as well as the ways in which it differs. I entered into this with slight knowledge of the original play – having read it years ago – though I did familiarize myself with the source material again through summaries before I started this. I definitely think it only helped raise my appreciation for the labor of love that was clearly worked here.
Clocking in at 576 pages long, this is a hefty tome, full of lovely prose that is wildly descriptive without being flowery.My hat is off to Tessa Gratton, for it is clear that she is a gifted author, with an imagination that is as wild as the roots of the White Forest and a depth of skill that must have been drawn from the rootwaters of Innis Lear itself. I sometimes struggle with overly descriptive prose, but here I felt like each word was carefully chosen and suited its purpose well to paint the world of Innis Lear to life.
I also enjoyed the way Gratton uses her character’s situations and legacies to her advantage to craft wonderfully gray and layered characters. Never forgetting that King Lear was itself a tragedy, nearly every character is nudged onward down a path of inevitability and destruction that reaches near fevered pitch for the last quarter of the story or so when I could scarcely put the book down.
The 3 Princesses of Innis Lear were particularly well crafted. I loved that they were women of color, sort of separated in a world apart from their culture, each other, and their family in a way that only can lead in one of two directions: to mutual understanding and acceptance of their circumstance together, or despair.
I struggled a bit with the character of Ban the Fox though because he seemed less morally gray than just a really corrupt and selfish individual to me. I know Tessa Gratton wanted him to remain a sympathetic character, but – without spoiling who exactly he corresponds to in King Lear, or what his role was in this – I couldn’t bring myself to see him that way, which sort of messed with my enjoyment of certain points involving his character.
There are at least 7 POV characters that are introduced over the course of the story,with most of them being introduced straight away at the beginning. There are also flashbacks incorporated so that we might see these character years before the story begins. That much jumping around made orienting myself to the world a challenge in and of itself. However, once I was familiar with each of the core cast and who they corresponded to in King Lear, things did get a bit easier to manage.
This was a truly lovely read and I am so glad that I stuck with it through the end.
🌟🌟🌟🌟 = 4/5 stars! Sure to become a high fantasy classic!
Thank you Netgalley, and Tor for approving me for a Review Copy!
Have you read this? What did you think? What about that cover? Isn’t it gorgeous?