The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton
Published by Tor Books
Published on: March 27 2018
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A KINGDOM AT RISK, A CROWN DIVIDED, A FAMILY DRENCHED IN BLOOD
Tessa Gratton's debut epic adult fantasy, Queens of Innis Lear, brings to life a world that hums with ancient magic, and characters as ruthless as the tides.
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.
I love KING LEAR.
When I took Shakespeare in college, I wrote my research paper on Edmund. I argued that he had little chance to be anything but a villain given the thoughtless mistreatment of bastards at that time. He wore his illegitimacy like a scarlet letter, and even more than Hester Prynn’s, his crime was not a crime.
So of course when I heard that Tessa Gratton’s THE QUEENS OF INNIS LEAR was a fantastical retelling of KING LEAR, I leapt at the opportunity to read it for review. And when I started reading it, and the Edmund-like character, now called Ban the Fox, appeared to be less villainous and more heroic, of course I was ecstatic.
I was 2% into it, and I should know better than to make assumptions, especially about a retelling of anything by Shakespeare.
Tackling Shakespeare is a challenging endeavor. It’s freaking Shakespeare. How do you retell a story written a master? The master?
To attempt it requires more courage than the average writer can muster. But to attempt it AND rewrite it to suit your purposes, to imagine your version of events superior?
That, friends, would be HUBRIS. #shameonme
I’ve seen several reviews where the reader has said things like, after the first couple chapters, they just couldn’t get into it, and that, to me, is baffling.
TQOIL has one of the best prologues I’ve ever read.
It begins when a wizard cleaves an island from the mainland, in response to the king destroying her temple.
Just that easily, I was hooked.
The spectacular prologue was immediately followed by an introduction to a character and an island that were so vivid, so magical, that I wanted to jump up and down shrieking, “I want to talk to trees! I want to see a bird’s dreams! I want the wind to be my messenger!”
I want to live in this world!
Characters that I’d thought I knew and knew well became infinitely more complex. More damaged. More covetous. Anger became fury. Thoughtless remained thoughtful but became loyal and well-intentioned as well. Good became naive, became heartbroken, became a strong and worthy queen.
And a story I already loved became something so much more.
Did it hurt?
Tragedy is tragedy, and Shakespearen tragedy . . . WHUH.
But Gratton so expertly crafted this expanded version that despite the respect she clearly has for this tale and its creator, she was able to give us a less bleak future. Those left standing are worthy of their survival. They’ve learned from Lear’s mistakes and don’t repeat them. They are poised to let their island heal their wounds, healing their island in return.
THE QUEENS OF INNIS LEAR more than a tragedy. It’s life lessons. How shutting yourself off from the ones who love you can be the root of your own destruction. It’s about recognizing when someone can be saved and when they can’t. It’s hard choices and unbridled hope.