Book Review: THE QUEENS OF INNIS LEAR by Tessa Gratton

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 2/5 stars
Series: Standalone


the queens of innis learA 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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This is a book I so desperately wanted to love. It’s a retelling of King Lear, and I adore Shakespeare, having grown up near the Globe. I struggle a little to read the plays, but I love watching them and attend as many performances as I can. I’d hoped a retelling would bring the story to life in a way that was easier to read than monologues in an older form of English.

This book was a slow, dense slog the entire way through. My copy is 568 pages, stuffed with purple prose that detracted from the story. It starts with four pages of “It begins when” listing all these ‘events’ that kick the story off, most of which appear to have NO relevance to the story, and pretty much follows on from there.

The inciting incident doesn’t appear until 100 pages in. Instead of anything happening initially, the story wades through an introduction to everyone of the POV characters (plus the occasional chapter of letters, or… something like the first chapter), stuffing their backstories, motivations and goals down the reader’s throat.

Not to mention all these ‘in the past’ chapters (with even more POVs) that go into even more detail about events already mentioned. They felt so unnecessary, as I already understood the general events and the effect they’d had on the characters. If anything, they simply served to bloat the narrative and pull away from the story all the more.

About 60% through, I picked up my trust Essential Shakespeare (it lists all the plays and their plots) to discover what was supposed to happen. This book is split into five parts (mirroring the play’s five acts) and, for the first four acts, it mirrors the beats pretty well, and then just decides to completely ignore it for the final act.

And the ending of a book about three queens fighting over a kingdom? Boils down to two men fighting to decide the country’s fate.


I’m not even sure what was happening the final few chapters because the pace had suddenly lurched and then this happened. There were too many messy emotions from all these character’s who have been stoic and repressed the whole time (which meant I hadn’t really connected with any of them).

However, I thought the middle was OK. I was just about getting into the swing of it, and the most interesting manoeuvres happened here. Not to mention I like the new angle these two magic systems gives – stars prophecies and worm magic. They were really interesting, if not particularly clear (which I think was the point).

All in all, a rather disappointing read.

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