There have been a few moments in my life when I thought “maybe I read too much.” And when I read the book jacket for The Queens Of Innis Lear and realized that it was a retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear but using the story structure made popular in fantasy fiction by a certain bearded fellow in Arizona who’s got a thing for dragons and twincest, and I audibly gasped and maybe danced a little jig, because that sounds awesome, was one of them.
That thought didn’t stop me from picking up Tessa Gratton’s book though. And as I read through her take on the story I was giddy. Her three sisters, Gaela (Goneril), Regan, (Uh, Reagan) and Elia (Cordelia), all maintain their characters from the play while being given new wrinkles and motivations and loves and hates.
This is a very good book, that I loved very much, enough to revisit my least favorite of the big ass end of life melodramas in The Folio. (My rankings go: Macbeth, Tempest, Lear.) I want to live in this book. I want to learn this magic, which is deep and Celtic and land based and rooted in blood and matriarchy and sisterhood.
Gaela made herself a warrior, and used magic to make herself sterile in hopes of seizing her father’s crown like a man. Regan, wanted only to be a mother but couldn’t carry a child to term and clung to her older sister after her own mother’s death. Elia always felt pushed aside by her sisters, so was devoted to her father. Her sisters resented this and those resentments curdled. As they father nears death and asks for them to prove who loves him best, their world explodes.
Gratton is beholden to the story we all know, but she doesn’t cleave to it. The best Shakespeare retellings don’t. She uses the play and twists it’s workings to her purpose. Funny, how I said after A Throne Of Glass that I wanted a break from fantasy worlds, and then immediately dove right into one that I fell madly in love with.
Up next is more fantasy! (Like I said, I have some books out of the library, so I’m stuck at the moment…) Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. The internet went bonkers about this book when it came out a few weeks ago, and I have to admit it will be fun to get into a fantasy series at the beginning and then wait a decade for another book and whine with everyone. (I’m sure Mr. James has a plan it’s just, how I’ve observed these things going.)