*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: A KINGDOM AT RISK, A CROWN DIVIDED, A FAMILY DRENCHED IN BLOOD
Tessa Gratton’s debut epic adult fantasy, The 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.
The Queens of Innis Lear is glorious, powerful and spell-binding. It is a fairytale woven from nettles and roots, hemmed with the majestic silk of Shakespearean tragedy, sprinkled in stardust and dipped in heartsblood. It is magic and melodrama. It is a whisper in the trees and a scream to the stars.
It is also long. Grown soft on a diet of nourishing fantasy trilogies and the comfort food of long series, I had forgotten just how challenging and all-encompassing a single epic tale can be! Unable to glomm it down in one gulp (due to…you know, needing to eat and sleep and work…) I instead had to take my time and digest it in stages. Honestly this left little thought for much else and I would not have been surprised to find I called my family Elia, Mars and Ban respectively!
I never really took to the tale of King Lear and his daughters. I found the motivations behind the characters unfathomable and alien, and it made little sense to me as a story. Tessa Gratton takes the story, shakes it out, adds magic to the land and breathes life into the characters, and suddenly the tale unfolded before me naturally and terribly and with full understanding. In vivid colours she paints passion and pride, grief and rage, loneliness and sacrifice and despair.
She deftly avoids casting villains and heroes by showing us, through varying perspectives, the blindness of those who see only through their poison-tinted glasses and therefore fatally misunderstand others and the consequences of their own actions, set against those who see further and more openly but are stricken with inaction and a refusal to take responsibility for what they see. These are not pantomime evil stepsisters and innocent Cinderellas, but fully realised humans with all their flaws and beauty.
Not to say that this is realism. It isn’t. This is melodrama and the hisses and boos, cheers and tears are in full flow, not for the characters but for the actions and inactions that drive the plot at a furious pace to the stormy crescendo of a cathartic finale. The author follows many of the conventions of Shakespearean tragedy in her tale, but not all, making this less a retelling and more a unique story in its own right. Alert readers can spot the many references to the eponymous King Lear, without the smug confidence that they know the turns the story will take or where it will end.
I’m sure it’s clear that I loved this book. This is a re-reader for me, and I would expect fans of epic fantasy, fairytales, literary fiction and melodrama to all enjoy the flavours here. I see that Tessa Gratton has other novels already released and will eagerly add her backlist to my Christmas wishlist!
It begins on the day two bright hearts are born to the island, one just past dawn as a crescent moon rises, and the other when the sun is brightest, obscuring the glow of stars. Their mothers knew they would be born together, as witches and best friends often do, and though it is the first child for one and the last for the other, such does not come between them. They sit beside each other, arms stretched to touch the other’s swollen belly as they grit their teeth and tell stories of what might become of their children.
– Tessa Gratton, The Queens of Innis Lear
The Queens of Innis Lear is out on Amazon right now!