I am a little sad to have finished The Queens of Innis Lear.  It feels like I have been reading it for a long while and that I have know the characters so well. I also found myself needing to be in the right frame of mind for the book, and so it took longer than I might have expected to read it.

The Queens of Innis Lear - Book Review

The book is based on the Shakespearean tragedy “King Lear” and it is as rich and dramatic as an original Shakespearean play.

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Title: The Queens of Innis Lear

Author: Tessa Gratton

SynopsisThe 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.

Pages: 578

Categories: Fantasy, Retellings

Publication Date: 17th May 2018 (UK Hardcover)

Rating: 3.5 (rounded up to 4 stars on GR etc)

Review: I want to start by saying that I did enjoy reading this book and I am not entirely sure that my rating is the right one, (3.5 stars rounded up) maybe I will take a look at this review in a while and adjust it. I read The Queens of Innis Lear* as an ebook via NetGalley. And maybe this altered my reading of the book, I do find that I enjoy ebooks less than ‘proper’ books.

One of the first things I would like to say is that I feel like the book should most definitely come with a content warning. It discusses several topics which I feel a reader should be forewarned about, namely miscarriage and suicide. There is a rather vivid miscarriage scene fairly early on in the book, and I would have liked to have had knowledge of that in advance, (probably so I could skip over that section had I known). I found myself unable to continue reading straight away after that passage and did actually question whether or not to continue the book at this point.

Towards the end of the book there is a lot of discussion surrounding suicide and two characters do commit suicide within the pages of the text. Again, this is another thing I feel readers should be forewarned about, either so that can choose not to read the book, or read it when they are in the frame of mind to do so. Hopefully the paper copies of the book will come with an authors note or content warning (like the one S Jae-Jones wrote for Shadowsong, which I mention in my review of that – you can see that here.)

These issues aside, as I have said above, I really did enjoy reading The Queens of Innis Lear. The characters are vivid, unique and each one is a flawed and wonderful creation. I am not sure who my favourite character is, I leaned towards Aefa and also found myself sympathetic towards Regan, I found Elia, who I feel may have been the ‘main character’ a little too passive. We follow the story, as it happens, to several characters, the three sisters, Gaela, Regan and Elia as well as Lear -their father, Aefa – Elia’s maid, Ban the Fox, Mars – the King of Aremoria among others. Each of these characters adds to what is an incredibly rich and detail story. I loved the fact that no-one was blameless, everyone was morally grey, we get to know them, flaws and all – they were selfish, they were filled with rage, they were selfless and loving..

As you can imagine the theme of ‘child against father’ is a strong thread woven through the story, and I am not sure whether or not, as a reader, we are supposed to forgive these children or their fathers. I found myself feeling more drawn towards the children and at times as unforgiving as Ban the Fox. Is there a limit to forgiveness? Should we forgive for the sake of others or for our own sake?

The world building was incredible and the Isle of Innis Lear really came alive between the pages of the book. Aremore too, was vivid and rich, when we visited characters who traveled to it’s city. But it did not hold a candle to the wild, brutal and alive Isle of Innis Lear. But I expect we are supposed to feel that way. Everything was so detailed, not just the characters and the kingdoms but their religions and their politics. The worship of the stars and the prophecies which stemmed from those beliefs were so intricate. And it was clear to see the stranglehold the stars had some of the people of Innis Lear, most notably Lear himself. The system of magic, or wormwork was also so intricate, so unique and so well used in the book. The connection between the people and the island really added an extra dimension to the whole story.

The themes of forgiveness, love and hate, are discussed at length in The Queens of Innis Lear, and we are told several cautionary tales, throughout the course of the novel – of children growing in to adults tempered by actions or mistakes of their parents. Some of these characters like Gaela and Ban are extremes, but they still feel realistic. In fact I felt like only Elia with her passivity and near endless forgiveness was unrealistic. At times she was as unfeeling as the stars her father molded her into.

I am not sure that my enjoyment of The Queens of Innis Lear would have been improved by reading a paper copy, or reading it at a different time in my life. I will say that it was an intense read, one which swirled up a multitude of emotions. Now that I have read the final words, I am glad that I decided to carry on with my reading as it is a beautifully tragic tale filled with unique and flawed characters.

I recieved an eARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review, all opinions and words are my own.