The Queens of Innis Lear
by Tessa Gratton
This ARC was provided by NetGalley for an honest review.
Synopsis as by NetGalley
A KINGDOM AT RISK, A CROWN DIVIDED, A FAMILY DRENCHED IN BLOOD
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.
Book itself:This is a multiperspective book following about 10 different characters. It gives the book multiple layers and views on different matters, but it can be confusing at the beginning of the book. There are also flashbacks on top of the 10 perspectives, which is a lot, but it gives you a view of what happened in the past. All views are written in the third person so the name of the character is often repeated making it easier to keep track. All the characters are very different which also helps to keep them apart.
Story: The story is deeply intertwined will all the characters. It’s intriguing, dramatic and full of blood and betrayal, it gave me a GoT feel. Though there is magic and I really enjoyed the magic system and the language of the trees in which the island speaks to the characters who chose to listen. The world is development to some extent and gives a great view of the fantasy world as a first book in a series would have. I do not know if this is a standalone or the first book in a series, from reading it, it could be either.
As the multiperspective book and the GoT feel, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of sex in this book. It was really great! I believe there are two sex scenes in the entire thing. One of them is quite lovely and sweet. But sex, in general, wasn’t the main focus and that was really nice.
I really enjoyed how freely the story talks about periods and how it regularly appeared in the story from different angles and at different time, as if to represent how often we get it but without wordy repetition.
Characters:My favourite character in the whole book was Elia. She starts off being naive and a rather soft and caring character. She doesn’t care about the power she just wants to take care of their father in his declining health. She is trained as a star priest but also possesses magic and the language of the trees. Her journey through the book is very interesting and I really enjoyed it. Her general love for everyone makes her the obvious choice as the main character and someone I enjoy following through such a bloody and dramatic storyline.
My second favourite was Ban the Fox. I got really invested in this character very early on, I believe it was his first chapter. Though for a while I believed him to be Elias half-brother which got me very confused for a while as I don’t approve of half-sibling romantic relationship. But they are not, so it’s all good 😂 I enjoyed his rage and abilities both with people and with magic. I really like this guy. Even though his intentions aren’t necessarily always for the greater good I was still rooting for him.
There is a bi-character who I found to be very entertaining but a bit stereotypical soft bi-male.
Reagan is the middle sister. She is the one character who makes the biggest journey in my view as a reader. She starts off being someone I believe to be a stereotypical strong bitchy cruel woman, and not very original, to become someone I became invested in and felt for at the end. I, as a reader, made an interesting journey along with her. It’s important to me to have a feel for a character in the beginning to gain some sort of connection, and then join them on their journey. For me and Reagan, I was more on the outside, firstly judging then feeling sorry for her. It was an interesting journey to have.
Lastly, there is Gaela. As a reader, I really enjoyed her point of views. As an LGBT+ person, I’m not sure about how she is portrayed in this book. I have questions: Is she a woman fighting for power in a male-dominated world? or is she a trans or queer character? If it’s the first I believe the stereotypical strong fierce woman was dragged a bit too far. If it’s the second I feel it’s not complete and a little bit ill-represented version of a trans or queer character.
Writing:Overall the writing is ok. It’s not a typical adult fantasy book with intricate, several pages long descriptions, though it has some descriptive scenes and quite often, they are not tedious which is good too me who are used to fast-paced YA fantasy.
The beginning of the book starts which several paragraphs which all start with “It begins with”. The grammar of this section is confusing to me. When I started the book I didn’t understand if this was past present or future tense. But that could just be my second-language English. There are similar sections throughout the book dividing the book into parts, but the first one was the only confusing one. If I had picked this book in a bookshop and read the first page, I wouldn’t buy it purely based on the confusing language.
There are also sentences and paragraphs which contradict each other. The sentence/paragraph might start off with something that will not happen, and end with that very thing happening. This makes me confused again and I have to re-read the section, sometimes several times, to fully get the meaning. It’s annoying, but I can look past it.
Overall: I have issues with this book, but the story and magic system were entertaining and intriguing enough, with the additions of my two favourite characters, for me to give it 3.5⭐️ If I had read King Lear by William Shakespear, I think I would get more from this book.
Have you read this? What did you think? Do you agree/disagree with me? Let me know!
I long for a really good and well-representer LGBT+ fantasy book. I think this is because An Unkindness of Ghosts by River Solomon set my bar so very high. Even though Tessa Gratton is LGBT+ herself, I didn’t feel the love in it.