Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

The Queens of Innis Lear is the story of three princesses of an island kingdom, faced with the approaching death of their father and the crowning of a new king (who can be female in this culture, just like wizards can be female).  There's the eldest and first in line, the warlike Gaela, who's dream is to have more power and a bigger army, there's Regan, the middle daughter, who believes in the old religion, and there's Elia, the youngest and favorite of their father, who has no pretensions to the crown, but wants to be what is essentially an astrologer.

All three receive a letter from the king, summoning them to appear so he can set things right, as he has seen in the stars.

There are other things going on as well.  On the mainland there is a man called the Fox.  He was born a bastard on Innis Lear, but serves the king of Aremoria on the mainland.  He has a history with Elia, whom his king is courting.  A summons for the king of Aremoria may prove to be a reunion of sorts for the Fox and the youngest princess.

Perspective is Important

One of the things I immediately noticed and appreciated is that Gratton is playing with perspective.  Elia is the first princess whose point of view we get to experience.  Perhaps due to the fact that she's the youngest, she personifies her sisters as bullies and believes neither of them care for her.

Regan does want some of the power of the crown, but it seems like more for her husband than herself.  She is busy trying to conceive a child, and doesn't think much about Elia at all it seems.

Gaela's got some rage going on.  She wants to express this through battle and war, which is part of why she looks forward to being king; once she gets the crown, she'll be able to cultivate enemies outside of Innis Lear, rather than picking a fight with her sister's duchy.  She hates her husband, but needs him (I think this is where a bit of her rage comes from).  She seems to see Regan as her true partner, rather than the old man she married.

All of their opinions of their deceased mother are both interesting and unique.  It's just sort of awesome how Gratton gets us to pay attention to what the characters think of themselves vs. what others think of them.

Greetings from Innis Lear

Oh my god, guys, the world building!
The prologue is pretty solid exposition, which can be tough to pull off, but Gratton manages, revealing the natural and cultural histories of her island kingdom to the reader.  There are a couple of religions going, one earthy, centering around trees and roots and spring wells, the other focusing on the stars and what can be divined from their positions.

The current king of Innis Lear has broken with the tradition of the trees and capped the many wells across his kingdom which contain root water, a substance considered sacred by worshipers of the more earthy of the religions.  Needless to say, there is some unrest about this.

Epic Fantasy, Multiple POVs

I'd describe it as a Game of Thrones for those looking for a more PG13 experience rather than the R-rated novel series or the sometimes X-rated HBO series.  You've got romance, political intrigue, plotting, multiple factions, wars spanning continents, magic.  I'd definitely recommend picking it up if you're looking for books to tide you over until the next installment comes out.

 And Let's Not Forget

It's a story that obviously takes some inspiration from Shakespear's King Lear, so if you enjoyed that, you might like this revisioning of a rift between daughters of an aging king.

Bechdel Test: Pass
Links: Amazon, Goodreads, Tor

No comments: