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
This is really hard review for me to write, The Queens of Innis Lear is epic in its storytelling and so much thought has gone into the world building, characters and history I feel like I should love it – it’s a high fantasy King Lear retelling with ancient magics, twisty plot and underhandedness, pretty much ticking all my boxes (and all of Shakespears!), but it sadly fell short. It’s because I appreciate all that must have gone into writing this that I feel so torn with what to put in my review, so I think i’m going to a good old fashioned list of pro’s and con’s
Pro’s – As I said before, this book is epic in it’s story telling, 3 sisters each vying for the crown of the island of Innis Lear when their father passes. Geala, the warrior, Regan the good wife and Elia (the youngest and favourite of the King) the Star Priest. What follows is a richly woven tale of court intrigue, old scores to be settled and simmering vengeance. The sisters must suffer through banishment, loss, grief and anger in order to decide who should rightfully wear the crown, all have different motives and ideas for the Island, but the old magic of an Island ruled by the stars has its own ideas too….. Whilst I found many of the characters hard to get on with (see cons) my favourite character by far was Regan. Her journey was one that I found solace in and her character development was off the scale. There were many moments of brilliance interspersed in the story and at times I felt like I didn’t want to put it down. I adored the sections about the old root magic and the language of the trees, these magics were beautifully written as were the magics of the stars and made a deserving focal point in the tale.
Con’s – there are no chapters in this book, it shifts around MANY different points of view in a rolling format and whilst it is separated into parts these are sparse. The book is also just far too long, I found myself skimming some parts and then having to go back because a tiny nugget of important information was nestled in the pages and pages of unnecessary explanations of things that had already been explained. I felt that it was in need of a lot of editing as at times reading it was a was a real endurance – I knew the payoff was coming but it was just so hard to get there. I wasn’t particularly taken with many of the characters either, there was so much going on and so much subterfuge and double dealing amongst them that it was hard to really build up a relationship with them as many of them had little opportunity to build up much depth. There is one huge question that I had throughout which never got answered either which was a real failing in continuity.
So in fairness, this is 3* from me.