The Queens of Innis Lear

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 27 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

It saddens me to say this but unfortunately Queen of Inis is not the book for me. I had high hopes especially after re-reading the blurb and imagining this book to be a Game of Thrones 2.0 but with sisters (that's enticing in it self!), but Queen of Innis did not keep me as enticed. Although It did not lack in much and I loved Tessa Gratton’s beautiful writing style, it is just not my type of book so I do believe and encourage others to who are interested to read this book because they might just like it! 
I will definitely re-read this book again at some point and maybe abs hopefully  get a different result and when I do I will change my review :) 

Thank you so much to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for this opportunity!
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I wanted to read this book so much and I am so glad that I did. This is Game of Thrones meets King Lear and it is brilliant.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book in exchange of honest review!
I don't know why I postpone reading this book so long. I just love every minute of it. 
The magic world is so unique, the characters so different and entertaining. 
I really need the next one noe
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This is a DNF for now, but one I'll definitely come back to. I'm just not in the mood of Tolkienesque fantasy and this is definitely Tolkienesque. It's very wordy.
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I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I must say right away when I saw this book up I had to request it, the description sounded fun and the cover was a catch as well. I think I liked it because it seemed similar to the Three Dark Crowns series and I liked the first one in that and wanted to see how this one had a take on the three sisters who could be Queen.

This book does a good job of letting you get to know the differences in the sisters so that is nice. And you get to know some of the supporting characters. I thought the plot was interesting, but I think there was more potential that could have been done to make the story a little better or more exciting. I was definitely rooting for Elia because she is the nicest of the sisters and the one that actually cares for her father. I definitely also didn't see it coming that her father would get so mad at her.

Not only do you have the sisters fighting over the crown, but you also have rival kingdoms fighting to take over the King's throne when he is gone. I thought it was interesting that there was magic wells and this king has decided to just cover them up, but there has to be something important about them that will change the way things are; it will be interesting to see the role this plays in the other book.

I thought overall it was a good read, with just some parts of the plot that could have been different to make it even more interesting. However, I do still want to continue to read the series to see what happens because it is still an interesting story.
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One of the marks of a successful retelling for me is that there are moments when I've forgotten that I know the outline of the story and am surprised by something that I did, in fact, know was coming. And though Tessa Gratton's epic fantasy King Lear retelling diverges from the plotline of Shakespeare's original in a number of key ways, especially as it draws closer to the end, it's faithful enough that there were plenty of those moments for me, when I took a pause, shook my head clear, and said, "yes, of course, this IS King Lear."

It's a premise that, in retrospect, seems so obvious that I'm surprised it hadn't been done already. "Epic fantasy King Lear" makes a lot of sense the moment you think about it. Lear has all those hallmarks that have caused some modern fantasy epics to be branded as "Shakespearean," royal family drama played out on the political stage, underhanded betrayals, and, you know, a lot of people who die. And while the setting of the play is England, its source material is more legend and folk tale than history, and what the play is lacking in magical stakes, Gratton seamlessly supplies. I had actually worried, from the tone of some of the pre-release hype, that this book would end up being too grimdark and bloody for my taste, so I was pleased to find that its tone is actually much more slow and moody than brutal and violent, and that the tragic events evoke far more pathos than shock.

I'll admit that Lear has never been a favorite of mine. From context, I gather that it actually isn't one of Gratton's either. There are a number of things about the play that are just straight-up frustrating from a modern, feminist perspective, like how the play's ingenue heroine Cordelia, who actually instigates the entire story, gets shipped off to France by the end of the first scene to marry a minor character and doesn't show up again until the end, when she arrives just in time to die. What Gratton's version does is re-center the story awayfrom Lear himself, making the king's tragic decline more the given circumstance for the drama that unfolds than the main event. As the title suggests, Lear's three daughters, here named Gaela, Regan, and Elia, are all major protagonists (and Elia especially becomes the heart and soul of the story), but they are far from being the only point-of-view characters in this ensemble epic. Though the book starts at approximately the same point in the story that Shakespeare's play does, much of the story is revealed through flashbacks, and the many characters whose stories and histories rise to the surface give The Queens of Innis Lear a truly sprawling feel.

Innis Lear is a small, rugged island nation whose kings traditionally take the same name. But while the current King Lear, now declining into senile incompetence, may have once been a more competent ruler than he is now, it's clear that he was never a great one. His fatal error is his trust in star prophecies above all else, to the point of denying and forbidding the island's natural earth magic, closing off the wells of sacred root water. The stars correctly predicted not only the arrival of his beloved, foreign queen, but also her death, and it becomes clear that the loss of the queen (who doesn't factor into Shakespeare's play at all) is the tragedy that has fractured this royal family beyond mending. To Lear, it was an affirmation of the stars' power, and the source of his increased zealotry. Elia was a young enough child when her mother died that the event brought her closer to her father in mourning. Though she had a natural affinity for earth magic and the language of the tress, she forsook it to become the star priestess that her father wanted her to be. But Gaela and Regan both suspect that Lear had their mother killed in order to prove his star prophecies true, and they can never forgive him. It's worth noting here that Queen Dalat was a black woman, and so all three princesses are women of color, and their relationships with their mother's heritage is an interesting through-line.

Gaela, the eldest, expects to succeed her father to the throne. She believes in political and military power, not stars or earth magic, but she's had to make concessions to Lear's star-foretold expectations of her so that he will name her his heir, marrying an ambitious man she doesn't love, with no plans to ever let him have the real power he anticipates as her husband. Gaela plans to never bear children, and to rule as a warrior king in her own right with her sister Regan as her partner in power instead. Regan practices earth magic, and married for love, but despite her increasingly desperate efforts has been unable to produce the heirs that her and Gaela's plan relies on, suffering a series of miscarriages instead. So when Lear announces that he will divest himself of power in a manner that the stars have ordained for him, and his youngest and favorite daughter fails to respond as he expects, matters in Innis Lear are perfectly primed for catastrophe.

But it's not quite accurate to say that The Queens of Innis Learis just a retelling centered around the female characters, because Gratton makes Shakespeare's appealing but frustratingly underdeveloped villain, Edmund, another emotional pillar of her story, though here his name is Ban. In the original play, Edmund is the bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester, whose scheming against his over-trusting father to supplant his brother is a secondary-plotline echo to what's happening in the primary plot with Lear and his older, unkind daughters. Like the other characters in the book, Ban is given a much more extensive backstory, and is presented as an extremely likable character nursing a lot of past hurts who becomes a compelling antihero, as his vendetta against Lear and his father takes him down an increasingly dark path of betrayal. He and Elia were childhood sweethearts, but they haven't seen each other since Ban was sent away to the mainland nation of Aremoria years ago. Talented in earth magic, he has become a full-fledged wizard and earned the trust of Morimaros, the king of Aremoria (Shakespeare's King of France). A covert mission for Mars brings him back to Innis Lear, and yes, it's King Lear, so you can guess some of what ensues.

Turning Elia and Ban into "star-crossed lovers" of a sort adds an interesting layer of emotional entanglement to the story, and the two characters are sort of poised as narrative counterpoints to one another, opposing forces around whom the fate of Innis Lear revolves. While Ban becomes entangled in Learish intrigue, Elia departs for Aremoria with Mars, whom she is expected to marry. Elia's journey is one of realizing that she can no longer be a passive character in her family's saga, and of the discovery of what she needs to become if Innis Lear is to survive its ordeal. Mars is also a very interesting character, balancing royal responsibility with his own personal feelings, as his increasing respect for Elia comes into conflict with his political schemes for her country.

Gratton fabricates a couple of other major characters who I think really enrich the story. One of the major downfalls of sidelining Lear in this story is that we also don't get to see a whole ton of his Fool. Gratton gives Lear's Fool a daughter, Aefa, who is Elia's attendant and confidante, and serves some of the same functions for Elia that her father does for the king. We also learn a lot about Ban's mother Brona, who is a witch and guardian of sorts to Innis Lear's beleaguered magic, commanding respect in her own right.

The magic of this world and the essential magical nature of Innis Lear are presented as beautiful and mysterious, which is just how I like the magic in my fantasy. It's the sort of magic where trees speak in their own secret language, and the land cares who rules it. I also enjoyed some of the more heightened language of the book, though it's inconsistent throughout. Though there are chapters where beautiful language is used for epic fantasy storytelling effect, it does sort of come and go. There are also scenes where the dialogue seems to be artificially heightened in order to accommodate lines of Shakespeare's text, while elsewhere in the book the same characters will speak in a much more modern, colloquial style.

As far as the story goes, I'm not sure that Gratton does quite as thorough a job with her reclamation of the two older sisters as she does with the youngest, though that's a pretty heroic thing to ask, all things considered. Gaela and Regan are both complex, flawed characters, whose actions and motivations you will completely understand, but they just don't get to carry quite as much emotional weight in the story as Elia does. Also, there are some minor elements of the ending that I might have preferred had gone a little differently. But for me, these are quibbles. I found this retelling to be utterly engrossing, and captivating enough that I'm tempted to claim it as my new headcanon version of King Lear.

I'd like to mention that several times during the writing of this review, I was tempted to go on a tangent of comparisons to Nahum Tate's totally nuts Restoration-era rewrite of King Lear, which I studied in college, and I would like a cookie for my restraint. You can look it up yourself.
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I originally thought this was just a sneak peak! But it was much longer than the average sneak peak! It took me a bit to fall into this. The names were really hard to pronounce and remember and I kept getting mixed up. Maybe if I read more I’ll eventually pick it up easier but it was also formatted really oddly which was distracting for me. The premise of the book itself seems interesting and engaging but I just hard a hard time with it.
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The Queens of Innis Lear is an epic tale of daughters, of kings and stars, of an island crying out for peace. It's a battle between choice and destiny, between the choices we make and the paths set out before us.

They are not the only narrators, the only characters with plots and visions of the future, but the three daughters of Lear are the most important. Gaela, power-hungry and determined. Focused. Harsh and hard, trained as a warrior. She is ready to rule the island of Innis Lear after her father, ready to stand as king. Regan, manipulative and thoughtful. Plotting and planning. Full of passion and love for her husband. Most of her goals align with Gaela, and she is ready to stand alongside her sister as queen, her children as their legacy. Elia the youngest, sweet and kind. Blessed by the stars, devoted to their aging father. Content to just be Elia, but sometimes that's not enough. Sometimes princesses must act and move forward, take steps toward a destiny they never expected.

This is layers upon layers upon layers of motivation, chance, fate, and determination written in magical, lyrical prose. This is an island of people who want what they want. People who follow the stars and people who work hard to carve out places for themselves. There are so many different plots and plans afoot, so many hoping that they will be the one to win, to rule, to love. To survive. This is an epic retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear with haunting magic, realistic and flawed characters, and women going after what they want. I would definitely recommend this to epic fantasy fans searching for something new but also familiar.
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Since I haven’t been on this site in awhile I haven’t yet gotten the chance to post my review for this eARC I received. Overall I enjoyed the writing styles and the characters in this book along with the progession of the story itself
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I'm giving this a one star rating for now, because there is no way the copy I received from Netgalley (for review) is a finished copy. According to Goodreads this book is to be a stand alone, but the copy provided from Netgalley ends literally mid-sentence with in a scene where there is absolutely no resolution to anything that had occurred plot wise and no cliff hanger for a sequel??? 

Otherwise I was much enjoying this King Lear retelling, givin' that I am aware King Lear is one of Shakespeare's foremost tragedies I'm not really expecting a change in the ending, or a happy ending for any of the characters I find myself most attached to. 

I'm going to be finding another copy of the book, so I can actually finish it all the way through before posting a full review on Goodreads.   Once I've finished it, I'll provide an update there.
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The Queens of Innis Lear

by Tessa Gratton

Rating: ♥♥♥

Pages: 567

Publisher: Tor

Publishing Date: March 27tht 2018


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.

Mini - Review:

I have to say I expected a completely different plot after reading the synopsis, but I was really surprised by how complex and word ridden this book was. The prose was phenomenal, but made the story a bit too slow pacing for my taste. We have about 5 different "speakers" in this book and a million time jumps within, which made it sometimes difficult to read. In my opinion maybe it would have been a better fit with less jumping and more insight in a few characters feelings and life. I first thought it would remind me of Kandare Blakes "Three dark crowns", but it did not in any way.

I liked how completely different and explizit the characters were written, how difficult it was to dig deeper into the feelings of the characters, so you would never know what happens next and how colorful everything was described. Some were dark, some were delightful and others just naiv. my favorite Character must have been Ban, though I think he will follow a dark and bloody path in the next book. I loved how feminist and strong the three queens were and especially Gaela was a bomb. In this book the women are the kings and all the man can only hope for a place in their life. That was sooo great. Badass, fighting queens are my favorite. Also we need more books that talk about womanhood problems like the burning period or being unable to bear a child. To deal with this topics in this book was an absolutely amazing solution of it!

The world building in this book was so on point with all the detailed descriptions and the importancethe nature and the star constellations, it made my heart bloom. This book felt as old as a fairytale but was also absolutely innovative, with the kingdom made by stars.

In the end I found the book a bit to slow and not deep enough, but I couldn't put it down either, so its a solid good book and against all odds I can't even wait for the second book!

(23. August 2018)
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I quite enjoy Shakespeare and even though King Lear isn't one of the plays I'm familiar with, I was really looking forward to such an intriguing sounding retelling. 

The writing and world building throughout the book was just beautiful. The descriptions were wonderfully evocative and gave a really great sense of the world. There were a few times where it did seem to drag on for a little longer than my attention span could cope with, and the plot did suffer for it, but it was a relatively minor issue. On the flip side, the dialogue is brilliant the whole way through and really showed the emotional range of the characters. 

The characters were all well-developed, and the various POV gave a great sense of each person's perspective. Obviously not having read the play, I can't say how closely they resemble each other. The depth of the relationships was outstanding. That said, I did not like all characters equally. Elia and Ban were probably my favourites, as they were the ones I related to the most. Gaela and Regan were interesting to begin with, but soon turned into two trick ponies and repeatedly rehashing their various issues did get a little old. 

The good parts were really good, but the parts that I didn't like as much make me a little hesitant to recommend this book. If you don't mind long, slow burning, descriptive fantasies, this is the book for you. Otherwise, maybe look for something else.
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This book was so good. I initially read the excerpt through Net galley and was hooked. I didn't realize how hooked I would have gotten to it. It is definitely a must-read.
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DNF: I attempted to read this book upon first downloading and then every few weeks following and simply could not get immersed. While the writing style is appealing, the book failed to suck me in after the first few chapters.
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So I honestly don't remember what drew me in besides the cover and sometimes that works for me, unfortunately this time it didn't. I can't give you a full review of reasons either it was simply that the story did not excite me enough to get past one chapter.
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Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into the storyline so I only ended up reading about 50 pages. I will definitely pick this book up at my own expense to give it another chance, in the near future.
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At first, I was very excited to read this book, then I found out that it wasn't the full book and it was only about 100 pages... not the best start.

I decided to forget about that and only read and review the few pages I had been given. I tried reading it 3 times and just couldn't get into it. 

Fine. I let that go and got the full hardcover version of it. Tried to read it 5 more times and it didn't work at all. 

From what I read, the writing style was annoying and overly complicated, I did not care for the characters or the story or the world. Simply put this book was not for me at all.
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This book was an amazing epic high fantasy novel. The plot was amazing. I loved the characters development and complexity and the writing was great.
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This book was definitely not for me. I thought it sounded interesting, but the writing style didn't hook me.
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I didn't realize this was not the full book when I requested it (should have looked better, totaly my own fault) however, I did enjoy what I read so far, Really want to finish reading this!
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