While I do love me a good Shakespeare retelling, I have yet to read one that has tackled my favourite of the Bard’s tragedies, King Lear.
All that changed, however, when on March 27, 2018, author Tessa Gratton decided to take up the mantel of such a task with her release of The Queens of Innis Lear.
So, was Gratton able to twist the classic tale of a mad king and his three daughters into something unique in the age of retellings? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.
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The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton
Publisher: Tor Books (March 27, 2018)
Print Length: 575 pages
Audiobook Length: 26 hrs and 21 mins
Narrator: Kate Reading
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.
If you have been looking for a Shakespeare retelling that is both respectful to its source material while also carving a path for itself within the fantasy genre, then The Queens of Innis Lear is for you.
The Queens of Innis Lear tells the fantastical tale of the kingdom of Innis Lear, its prophecy-obsessed King, Lear, and his three daughters: Gaela, Reagan, and Elia, as the crown is passed from father to daughter(s) leading the players and the kingdom to the brink of all out war.
Gratton’s prose were absolutely breathtaking that I almost forgot that I was reading a 575 page monstrosity. As King Lear is my favourite of Shakespeare’s tragedies I had a firm grasp on the play, its characters, and themes when going into this that I couldn’t help but appreciate all of the Easter eggs that were sprinkled throughout the novel . The reason I am saying this is if you want to appreciate what exactly Gratton did, do yourself a favour and at least read the SparkNotes version of the Shakespeare play.
The fantastical elements of The Queens of Innis Lear was quite inventive of Gratton. In the novel there are those who believe in the stars and those who believe in the trees. There are of course consequences to using either of them, leaving the reader conflicted, as it is for everything in this novel, and by the end my reading l I felt that I had ingested some rootwaters of Innis Lear, left to pick up the pieces of whether the magic was worth using at all.
Much like Shakespeare, Gratton’s story is truly elevated by its morally gray cast of characters. The three queens were absolutely stunning to read about. Usually I am not one to enjoy novels that flip from the present to the past but each detail included about the queens was necessary for the conclusion of the novel. As with the play I disliked Gaela and Reagan, feeling sympathy only for Elia, the only one actually doing things for the good of the people rather than corruptly for herself. Plus, the love triangle between Elia, Ban the Fox, and Morimaros made for an explosive finale. My only issue with the characters is that there wasn’t enough eye gouging. I’m weird with my appreciation of the play and hyper focus on the torture technique of eye gouging.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
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And those are my thoughts on The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton. Have any Shakespeare retelling recommendations? Leave your recommendation below and help my TBR grow.