I read 153 books this year in a 50/50 split between audiobooks and other formats. Being unemployed helped that along, didn’t do much for me in terms of my mental health. But there were so many good reads consumed and published this year, I had to make two lists. Enjoy!
Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library audiobook
Listened to the audiobook
I very quickly returned to Tessa Gratton’s Shakespeare retellings with this queer take on Henry IV (which of course, I have not read). In this companion to Queens of Innis Lear, we follow the exploits of Lady Hotspur, Prince Hal, and Banna Mora as they seek to bring political peace to Eremoria and reunite with the magic of Innis Lear.
This book is so deeply character-driven. No political decision had been made without the influence of any of the characters, which made the love story between Lady Hotspur and Prince Hal that much more compelling. I love how authentically messy and ambitious all the POV characters were. They didn’t feel like pawns to destiny, and instead had their own loves and conflicts. The familial relations especially in Prince Hal’s story line really resonated with me.
With regards to the political world-building, the tension between tradition in an otherwise queernorm world soaked through the pages. The examination was so fascinating, and in many places, made the book un-put-down-able because it didn’t have to end in a way defined by bloody history. Figures from Queens of Innis Lear do return in the form of flashbacks, but there is absolutely no requirement to read that book to understand this one.
If you want a book full of disaster queers, including sword lesbians and bisexual wizards, magic, and destiny, definitely pick up Lady Hotspur.
Shelter-in-place continues through May in Illinois. Halfway through this month, I’m going to slowly start making a plan regarding employment and read these fine reads in the mean time. Things with a * are from last month’s TBR.
The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus*
The Never-Tilting World by Rin Chupeco*
Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford (ARC)
Scapegracers by H.A. Clarke (ARC)*
The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant (ARC)
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (ARC)
Flotsam (Peridot Shift #1) by R.J. Theodore*
The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer (ARC)*
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (ARC)*
The Fiery Crown by Jeffe Kennedy (ARC)
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (ARC)
The Unconquered City by K.A. Doore (ARC)
Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin*
Blood Countess by Lana Popovic
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
Highfire by Eoin Colfer
Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
My own novel is still with alpha readers, so I’m returning the favor and also doing some beta reading this month.
Good-bye April, the shortest month this year. I have gone through a lot of sudden changes, but there are always more books to read. I even discovered two new favorites this month, which feels exciting.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2018
Source: My own hard copy
I’m going to start this review by saying that I have never read Shakespeare’s King Lear. That being said, if you want a family drama full of magic and ambitious women vying for the position of king, look no further. This book is magical in a way reminiscent of mythology. There are prophecies and stars and a forest that speaks to its inhabitants.
In terms of the three queens, I loved them all. Gratton takes her time exploring what Innis Lear might be like under each one, from traditional Elia, war-mongering Gaela, and cunning Regan. Their romantic arcs with their husbands felt familiar as well, with having different layers of conflict. There is love and betrayal, and I really enjoyed how the world handled the topics of “king” and “queen” in its own vocabulary.
The prose is absolutely beautiful. The atmosphere of Innis Lear hums with something supernatural and ancient. Though it’s the setting, the island also serves as another protagonist, and depending on whose character arc you’re on, it definitely serves as an antagonist. I think it wins in the end, but that’s for me to read Lady Hotspur to find out (even though that story takes place in the future).
A dark, enchanting fantasy intriguing politics, prophecies, and heaps of ambition.