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Book Review: The Queens of Innis Lear

If you’re looking for a re-imagining of a Shakespeare play, have I got a book for you. (And if you’re not, well, I didn’t realize it was a retelling of King Lear until reading the reviews afterward—sometimes I’m not that observant—and I loved it. To be honest, I haven’t ever read King Lear.) This fantasy is dark and sweeping and so detailed, and . . . I’ll let the review say the rest.

Title: The Queens of Innis Lear

Author: Tessa Gratton

Age Range/Genre: Adult, Fantasy

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This review has also been cross-posted to Goodreads.

This is an intricate, completely enthralling tale of three sisters, their allies and enemies, and the struggle for the crown of Innis Lear.

Gaelan Lear is nearing the end of his reign as king. His three daughters expect that the crown will pass to the eldest, Gaela, who will reign with the middle daughter, Regan, at her side, and Elia, the youngest, will spend her life as a star priest, devoted to the night skies. Of course, life rarely happens as we plan, and the question of Innis Lear’s next queen is suddenly in question. It doesn’t help that the sisters are decidedly not friendly—after their mother’s prophesied death on Gaela’s sixteenth birthday, Gaela and Regan declared Elia an enemy for siding with their father, who they believe is responsible for Dalat’s death. Meanwhile, Elia only wishes to please her father. A neighboring king sees an opportunity in the unrest, and sends a spy to the island nation to gather intelligence so he may strike at its weaknesses. Families are set against each other and split down the middle, and amid all the political machinations, the island has its own ideas about who should rule.

Not only are many of the main characters people of color, but there’s also some gender fluidity and casual same-sex romances sprinkled throughout. I like that it’s not treated like a big deal—it just is. The worldbuilding is magnificent, with a system of magic that relies heavily on nature. It’s intertwined with and yet set off by a belief in reading prophecy from the stars, and the blend of both is something I don’t think I’ve encountered in fantasy, at least not in this iteration. The shifting political alliances were also written really well, keeping the reader guessing but not being too far fetched. The characters were likewise amazingly well fleshed out, avoiding the ideas that any one person is entirely good or entirely bad. Everyone has their own motivations, and thanks to the shifting points of view, we get to see the inner workings of their minds. I love this book for so many reasons, and couldn’t stop reading. It’s a self-contained, stand-alone novel as it is, but a part of me wants to see more stories set in this universe.

Read any epic fantasy lately you’re just itching to talk about? Comment below and tell me all about it!

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