I LOVE this book!
Tessa Gratton’s The Queens of Innis Lear is a reinterpretation of Shakespear’s play King Lear--AND an exploration of ancient land magic, intense family relationships, and how the identities we ingest in childhood can shape who we become.
The story takes place in a fictional Britain of jagged mountains, deep wells, and wild forests. It's one of the books I consider comparable to my novel-to-be, Sky God's Warrior.
- Ban (Edmund in the play) is a powerful wizard intimate with the trees who has made a name for himself in France. “A small man, with not a strip of comfortable fat, Ban was all tawny muscles and sharp edges.”
- We meet Elia (Cordelia) among the “star priests” (astrologers). Her father King Lear’s instability draws her into royal politics. Her greatest desire is to heal her fractured family.
- King Lear’s eldest daughter, Gaela (Goneril), is a tough warrior who lives for battle. Her mother died on her sixteenth birthday, and she blames Lear for her mother’s death.
- Lear’s middle daughter Regan is an earth witch unable to conceive. The pain of her infertility, her love for her husband, and fierce devotion to her older sister Gaela, make her compelling and sympathetic.
- Morimaros or Mars (King of France) is dedicated to his people and country, and convinced that annexing the island of Innis Lear is his destiny. Falling in love with Elia puts his heart in conflict with his duty.
He crouched at the shore to dig his hands into the mud. He spread it up his wrists like gauntlets, smoothing the gray-brown mud into a second skin over his own… He slapped handprints over his shoulders, splattering them down his back as far as he could reach.
Regan confessing her infertility:
“I have tried potions and begged the trees; I have done everything that every mother and grandmother of the island would tell me…” She sobbed pure air, letting it out rough and raw. “... My thighs are sticky with the brains of our babe…and I want to rip out my insides and bury it all here. I am nothing but bones and desperation.”
And Regan’s earth magic:
Regan became more than she was: a piece of the forest, with roots, and branches for bones, vines for hair, flowers where her lips should be, lichen hardening her fingers, and a black-furred bat unfurling its nighttime wings inside her womb.