by Tessa Gratton
Published on March 27, 2018 by Tor
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
A kingdom at risk, a crown divided, a family drenched in blood.
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.
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The Queens of Innis Lear was easily one of my most anticipated fantasies for 2018 and I think that was part of the problem. High expectations never bode well when reading a new book and unfortunately I ended up disappointed.
I’m not all that familiar with King Lear so I likely missed the nods to the original work but this book can stand on its own (for any of y’all debating whether it’s worth reading King Lear first). This book has everything I would look for in an adult fantasy. A sweeping, vivid world filled with magic. A cast of intriguing characters AND enough time to get to know them. Intricate plot lines expertly woven together.
So what was the problem?
Honestly, I was bored. For all the great elements in The Queens of Innis Lear, nothing really happens for a good chunk of the book and the story is so sluggish that I lost interest several times over. All the beautiful writing in the world can’t save a book that doesn’t fulfill its entertainment value. Granted, I wouldn’t say this book suffered from the dryness that I associate with Lord of the Rings and the Wheel of Time books, but it’s up there. Not a bad thing, but I was looking for a bit more.
After nothing really happens for a while, we finally get to some action and rather than take the opportunity to throw me into the story, Gratton pulled me right out by switching viewpoints. Often I find that without a strong character voice (or voices), these types of fantasies quickly lose their charm. I love the world-building and all but the characters make or break a story. If I can’t find at least one to follow, the book is done for me.
Here, there were plenty of characters to pick from but I went from loving certain characters to dreading their chapters, especially if it was a flashback scene (why were there so many?!). And I think part of this came from the scope of this story. It’s dense, and there’s a lot going on. Fans of the style of A Game of Thrones will be at home with The Queens of Innis Lear. I enjoyed it, truly, but don’t think I was quite in the right mindset to really take in this book and all its intricacies.
If you like the original King Lear tale, you’re a dark fantasy fan, or you’re just looking for a sweeping tale of epic proportions with a highly thought out world, I think you’ll enjoy this book. The build-up took too long for me, and the ending left me wondering if there was room left for a potential sequel, but overall The Queens of Innis Lear worked, just not as much for me as I hoped.