An epic adult fantasy inspired by Shakespeare's King Lear depicts a once-bountiful isle decimated by a prophecy-obsessed king's erratic decisions, where three rival princesses use respective approaches to prepare for a war that will determine their realm's leadership and survival. By the author of the Gods of New Asgard series. - (Baker & Taylor)
A fantasy inspired by Shakespeare's "King Lear" depicts a once-bountiful isle decimated by a prophecy-obsessed king's erratic decisions, where three rival princesses prepare for a war that will determine their realm's leadership and survival. - (Baker & Taylor)
Dynasties battle for the crown in Tessa Gratton's debut adult epic fantasy, The Queens of Innis Lear. - (McMillan Palgrave)
Three Queens. One crown. All out war.
Gaela. Ruthless Commander.
I am the rightful heir of Innis Lear. No more will I wait in the shadows and watch my mother’s murderer bleed my island dry.
The King’s hold on the crown must end—willingly or at the edge of my sword.
Regan. Master Manipulator.
To secure my place on the throne, I must produce an heir. Countless times I have fed the island’s forests my blood. Yet, my ambition is cursed.
No matter what or whom I must destroy, I will wield the magic of Innis Lear.
Elia. Star-blessed Priest.
My sisters hide in the shadows like serpents, waiting to strike our ailing king. I must protect my father, even if it means marrying a stranger.
We all have to make sacrifices. Love and freedom will be mine.
"Amazing. Just Amazing."--Robin McKinley
*Starred Review* On the island nation of Innis Lear, magic falters under the rule of a half-mad king obsessed with star prophecy. Neighboring kingdoms eye the island and its weak ruler. But the three daughters of King Lear have plans of their own. The eldest, warlike Gaela, means to be sovereign, and she allies herself with her manipulative sister Regan, who remembers the island's forgotten earth magic. Elia, the youngest, a star-priest and their father's favorite, has no interest in ruling, but she resists her sisters' harmful ambition and hatred for their father. Meanwhile, the enigmatic Ban, a bastard and Elia's childhood love, vows to show Elia how little a father's love is worth. A storm is coming to Innis Lear, and those who survive will be unalterably changed. Gratton's first novel for adults is a force to be reckoned with: she expands the world of Shakespeare's King Lear and crafts a narrative that, despite its scope, never loses control. The basic plot remains, but the true accomplishment here is the characterization: Lear and his men slip quietly into the backdrop, more catalyst than character, while the women—the difficult, complex, astoundingly realized women—claim center stage. A darkly rendered epic of old magic, hard hearts, and complicated choices. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
The play's the thing
Two new adaptations of King Lear and Macbeth revisit the Bard’s vision of power and its corruptibility, drawing deeply from the well of his obsession with greed and ambition.
Tessa Gratton’s The Queens of Innis Lear mines a magical landscape tortured by madness, while Macbeth by Jo Nesbø casts its namesake character in a 1970s Scottish noir.
The Queens of Innis Lear turns Shakespeare’s tragedy into a sweeping fantasy that pulls back the curtain on a family soaked in bloody conflict. When the king of Innis Lear turns away from the island’s traditional earth magic and forces his kingdom to rely on star prophecy, the splintering of his family begins. But it is the king’s descent into dementia that creates a climate ripe for betrayal and sows the seeds of discord between his three daughters.
Elia, the youngest and most devoted daughter, is shunned and exiled by her father when she refuses to proclaim her love for him. When Lear’s warrior daughter Gaela joins forces with her cunning sister Regan to claim the throne, the stage is set for war. Moving among them is Elia’s childhood friend, the scorned bastard Ban, whose loyalty shifts between the players with deadly precision.
Gratton’s literary landscape is lush and full of unique magical elements. The trees, winds and waters of Innis Lear whisper to the inhabitants of the island, especially those who refuse to respect the prophecies of the stars. This beautiful retelling of King Lear probes the nature of madness and power within a stunning new fantasy world.
Set in the gritty industrial wasteland of the Scottish coast, Nesbø’s Macbeth turns “the Scottish play”—Shakespeare’s definitive exposition on the thirst for power—into a violent police procedural. Duncan is a visionary chief of police poised to bring down both a notorious biker gang and the mysterious drug lord Hecate. Aided by SWAT team leader Macbeth and Narcotic Unit leader Duff, Duncan plans to eradicate the drug trade. But Macbeth falls under the spell of his paramour, Lady, as she whispers of his potential for advancement. Lady’s stratagems play into Hecate’s plans to gain a puppet within law enforcement. As Macbeth’s star ascends through murder and mayhem, he descends further into madness.
The latest in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which acclaimed authors put their own spin on Shakespeare’s works, Macbeth perfectly pairs a modern master of crime fiction with Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy. While retaining most of the original character names from Macbeth, Nesbø masterfully crafts fully fleshed players from each original role to present a visceral, contemporary exploration of ambition and corruption.
From the mists of a mystical isle to the grime of a decaying city, Gratton and Nesbø retell two of the Bard’s best-known plays with refreshing vision and respect for the original tales. The Queens of Innis Lear and Macbeth are wonderful returns to the works of Shakespeare.
This article was originally published in the April 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.
Copyright 2018 BookPage Reviews.
Three very different sisters vie for their father's crown in this fantasy inspired by King Lear.It's a setup familiar to anyone who knows their Shakespeare: An aging king gathers his three daughters and asks them each to describe their love for him and prove they are deserving of inheriting his crown. The two eldest, here called Gaela and Regan, are happy to comply. The youngest, and his favorite—here called Elia—refuses and is disinherited. As the king descends into madness, Gaela and Regan, along with their respective husbands, scheme to ensure that the crown passes to the person they've agreed should have it: Gaela, with Regan beside her. But Elia, who lacks her sisters' bloodthirsty ambition, fears she may have to take a stand to save her home before her sisters tear it apart. Gratton, making her adult debut, stays true to much of the play while building past it to create an inventive universe full of ancient magic and prophetic stars. Her writing is atmospher ic, staying just shy of florid. The racial diversity is a welcome sight in the genre, as is an epic tale full of such dynamic women. And yet, as the page count pushes past 500, it's hard not to feel that the action drags. Scenes of political intrigue become repetitious, and the final plot points feel mired in lyrical imagery by the time they finally arrive. Gratton achieves the rare feat of a Shakespeare adaptation that earns the right to exist, but it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews
On the island of Innis Lear, the ruling king has become so besotted with the prophecies foretold from the stars and the language of trees that he loses his grip on his land—and his sanity. His three daughters should be bound together as family, but each has her own ambitions, loves, and choices to make. When the time comes for the next ruler to ascend, what will the fates say about the Queens of Innis Lear? Who will take the crown? Loosely based on Shakespeare's King Lear, this medieval high fantasy offers richly drawn characters and a magical setting that lends its own voice to the story. The elegant prose keeps readers grounded amidst the possibly overwhelming multiple voices, flashbacks, and letters between characters. VERDICT YA author Gratton's ("Gods of New Asgard" series) engrossing and magical adult debut will attract fans of vivid epic fantasies, especially lovers of Erika Johansen's "Queen of the Tearling" trilogy and George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice & Fire" series.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Gratton's enthralling debut fantasy novel reinvents King Lear as the tale of a king's three daughters: Gaela, martial and ambitious; Regan, as desperate for a child as she is devoted to her elder sister; and Elia, a star priest and her father's favorite. When Lear declares that he will divide the island of Innis Lear between Regan and Gaela and strips Elia of her title and dowry, the court is thrown into chaos. Elia must contend with her greedy sisters, consider her suitors—a nobleman's bastard son, a nearby king who has his own plans for the island—and find a way to unite the island and undo her father's disasters before it's too late. Shakespeare aficionados will recognize the spine of the plot, including Lear's terrible choices and the rivalry between the legitimate and illegitimate sons of nobility. Gratton sets her version of this story in an island kingdom where reverence for earth magic has recently been supplanted by star prophecy, which provides yet another thread of tension among the characters. Also, Lear's wife was a dark-skinned princess from a foreign land, and the three daughters take after her in varying degrees. Gratton's emphasis on the voices of the women (including Elia's maidservant, Aefa) and the depth and dimensionality of their stories is what truly reshapes the familiar elements of the Lear tragedy into something fresh, with a suitably tragic yet satisfying ending. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary. (Mar.)
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.
School Library Journal Reviews
In this epic fantasy retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear, the king of Innis Lear is obsessed with prophesies, but this fixation has stolen much of the magic from the land. The prosperity of the people disappears soon after. Now the king must name his successor. Gaela, the oldest, is the rightful heir to Innis Lear. Regan, the second child, is a manipulator and also seeks the crown. Elia, the youngest, is a priest of star magic and the king's secret favorite. Thus, the three sisters vie for the same crown. At more than 500 pages, this book has plenty of room for complex character development; even villains are given sympathetic qualities. Readers will savor this lyrical tale. Intricate world-building and descriptions of various types of magic add to the measured pace. Though teens need not have read King Lear to enjoy the novel, those with some familiarity with the play will get the most out of this read. VERDICT Give to fans of Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns, J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings," or George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.—Jenni Frencham, formerly at Columbus Public Library, WI
Copyright 2018 School Library Journal.