Tor.com content by

Tessa Gratton

Fiction and Excerpts [1]
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Fiction and Excerpts [1]

Rewriting the Stars: Astrology in The Queens of Innis Lear

“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behavior, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion.” —Edmund the Bastard, King Lear

When I set about creating a secondary world for my fantasy novel, The Queens of Innis Lear, I knew I wanted to use the metaphors of the natural world traditionally found in Elizabethan literature and which Shakespeare used to explore the deterioration of the eponymous lead in King Lear, the play that inspired my novel.

Innis Lear is an island where nature is magical, practically sentient itself. The trees speak, the rootwaters of the island have a basic will to thrive, and the distant stars hold power over people and the progress of modern civilization. There are two main philosophies: the religion of star prophecy, where priests worship through studying the stars and interpret their signs as behavioral guides, and the practice of wormwork, where wizards commune with the roots and waters of the earth to derive power and influence progress. While the philosophies can, in a healthy kingdom, weave together into a layered, complicated system of magic and belief, Innis Lear is no longer a healthy kingdom, having fallen into decay by only upholding the side of fanatical belief in the stars.

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Your Hour Upon the Stage: Sooner or Later, Shakespeare Will Describe Your Life

I don’t remember which of Shakespeare’s plays I read first, but I do remember the first performance I watched, start to finish: it was Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, playing on the TV when I was eleven and my dad was deployed in Desert Storm. I didn’t understand everything that was going on, and couldn’t have if I’d only read it. But because performance can energize and interpret the play for me, in specific ways, I was able to understand this play was about war, and it was about why men fight in wars. The monologue that made an unforgettable impression on small Tessa wasn’t from the Crispin’s Day speech. It was one spoken by a soldier with whom the king is conversing about the just nature of his war. Given the quagmire of wars American has been involved in since 2001, I could analyze this now with rather depressing politics, but as a child all I heard was why are we fighting this war? If my dad dies, what will it be for? The performance drew out the meaning of the speech even for my unprepared ears. I hadn’t thought to ask why before, and the performance taught that question.

I wish everyone were introduced to the Bard via great performance instead of being forced to read it, without the context of audience and energy, and usually by untrained voices. Because a capable performance changes everything.

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The Queens of Innis Lear

Three Queens. One crown. All out war. Dynasties battle for the crown in Tessa Gratton’s debut adult epic fantasy, The Queens of Innis Lear—available March 27th from Tor Books.

Gaela, Ruthless Commander: I am the rightful heir of Innis Lear. No more will I wait in the shadows and watch my mother’s murderer bleed my island dry. The King’s hold on the crown must end—willingly or at the edge of my sword.

Regan, Master Manipulator:  To secure my place on the throne, I must produce an heir. Countless times I have fed the island’s forests my blood. Yet, my ambition is cursed. No matter what or whom I must destroy, I will wield the magic of Innis Lear.

Elia, Star-blessed Priest: My sisters hide in the shadows like serpents, waiting to strike our ailing king. I must protect my father, even if it means marrying a stranger. We all have to make sacrifices. Love and freedom will be mine.

[Read an Excerpt]

Sooner or Later, Shakespeare Will Describe Your Life

I don’t remember which of Shakespeare’s plays I read first, but I do remember the first performance I watched, start to finish: it was Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, playing on the TV when I was eleven and my dad was deployed in Desert Storm. I didn’t understand everything that was going on, and couldn’t have if I’d only read it. But because performance can energize and interpret the play for me, in specific ways, I was able to understand this play was about war, and it was about why men fight in wars. The monologue that made an unforgettable impression on small Tessa wasn’t from the Crispin’s Day speech. It was one spoken by a soldier with whom the king is conversing about the just nature of his war. Given the quagmire of wars American has been involved in since 2001, I could analyze this now with rather depressing politics, but as a child all I heard was why are we fighting this war? If my dad dies, what will it be for? The performance drew out the meaning of the speech even for my unprepared ears. I hadn’t thought to ask why before, and the performance taught that question.

I wish everyone were introduced to the Bard via great performance instead of being forced to read it, without the context of audience and energy, and usually by untrained voices. Because a capable performance changes everything.

[Read more]

Series: Shakespeare on Tor.com