Book Review: IRON QUEEN by Joanna Courtney

Title in white on purple next to triskele
Genre: Historical
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: third in companion series


Book cover for IRON QUEEN: title in white on purple above burning silver triskele with white order

The Coritani are a matriarchal line of great power, blessed with three princesses to carry the royal bloodline forward. Confident, fiery Goneril; fierce, earthy Regan; and gentle, water-blessed Cordelia. The future, the druids are certain, is secure.

But when Goneril decides she wants power on her own terms, even at the expense of her fragile father, the princesses’ triple bond is threatened and then tragically broken. Quiet Cordelia finds herself cast adrift, forced to flee for her life across dark, stormy seas.

Can Cordelia find the strength to challenge her sisters and their pet druids, and bring truth, right and justice back to the Coritani before it’s too late for them all?

Blurb taken from copy. Add to your Goodreads shelves here.


IRON QUEEN was the August book club pick, and I really enjoyed it. I was a little nervous, as I knew it wouldn’t be the play I knew (having previously had that issue with BLOOD QUEEN.) However, I think knowing not to expect the play I knew, but a story with some similar names and ideas, really helped because it let me enjoy this book for what it is, rather than constantly be comparing it to the play.

This is not the King Lear written by Shakespeare but it does still contain tragic elements. The sisters are torn apart, but by the power-hungry nature of one of them. While a boy (Cordelia’s love interest) is caught up in it, it is not because Goneril desires him particularly, but because of wanting to possess a man like him. And so it’s not a love-based snit between the siblings, but Goneril’s resentment of not getting what she wants (and lots of other non-boy related actions are also responsible for causing the trouble.) I really liked that as every tragedy I’ve read based around a group of women has been because of a boy and that bores me, so this was great. It’s also a very lopsided powerplay/fight, all one sister causing the issues.

The author vividly brings Iron Age Britain to life. It’s a richly imagined world, woven through with a Season-based belief system that makes the book feel very connected to the landscape it’s set in. It was really interesting to see this part of history brought to life.

I also liked seeing the scientific side of the druids. They’re usually portrayed as mystics, but the historical note explains that most weren’t like that. In this book, the main druid we see if a scientist, interested in understanding the mechanism of flight (and how animals work as a whole.) Having investigations into flight was a really surprising – but fun – part of the book, and is linked into the tragedy as a whole.

I listened to this in the car, so snoozed through a bit of it at the start (I find it hard to stay awake in warm cars on long journeys.) However, despite missing a few chapters, I was able to follow along and fill in those blanks as there were enough hints to keep me clued in as to what I’d missed!

Read my reviews of other books by Joanna Courtney:

Shakespeare’s Queens (this series):


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