Title: The Shadow Queen
Author: C.J. Redwine
Series: The Ravenspire Series
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: February 23rd, 2016
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5 out of 5)The summary of The Shadow Queen from Goodreads:
Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.
In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.
I’m a fan of Redwine. I fell in love with her Defiance series and when I heard she’d be doing a fairy tale series, I got excited. I grew up on Disney fairytales. And even though they hold a special place in my life, I love seeing those same tales from different perspectives, from new angles, with new interpretations. I loved Redwine’s take and how she added a level of character exploration to the story.
The story itself was created beautifully. It was easy to follow, but it wasn’t so easy it became dull. Despite having a feeling about how the story would end, I still found myself at the surprises the characters faced. It’s Snow White, but without the damsel in distress. Yes, Lorelai is in danger. But she does not rely on the help of others to save her. She saves herself.
I think what I loved most about this book were the characters. Lorelai is a banished princess. She’s focused on getting back her throne, but that’s not all. She knows she has no influential power over the kingdom in terms of being queen, but she still finds ways to help the people of the kingdom. She’s not so focused on getting the throne that she forgets the role of a queen is to help the people. She may not have the crown, but she makes sure she does what she can for her kingdom.
Kol was never meant to be king. He’s the second son, more prone to mischief than responsibility. But he’s suddenly faced with saving his kingdom and he’s not sure how to accomplish it. If his father and brother couldn’t come up with a way to protect the kingdom, how is he supposed to? Like Lorelai, I loved that his character wasn’t blinded by a goal. He’s a good person at heart and that permeates his actions. He doesn’t look at the situation as an “ends justify the means” option. He knows that sometimes he’ll have to make tough decisions, but he also knows that he needs to make the decisions that he can live with for the rest of his life.
We even get to see how the evil queen thinks and the reasons behind her actions. She’s not simply an evil person. People rarely are. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with portraying the antagonist as just an antagonist. But Redwine made Irina human. I can’t say I was rooting for her at any point in the novel, but I did feel an understanding for her, a sympathy for her. She’s not evil at heart. She was put through situations and choices that ultimately led to her making bad decisions. She wasn’t born evil; she grew to be a culmination of bad choices and painful situations.
Despite having a pace that usually kept me enthralled, I did feel like it dragged in a few moments. They never lasted long, and the action continued pretty quickly, but I was taken out of the novel by the pace a few times. It wasn’t enough to make me not enjoy the novel, but it was enough that I couldn’t give the book a full five stars.
If you’re a fan of Redwine, read the book. It’s the first in a series of stand-alone companion novels. There’s a definite conclusion to the novel and yet you’ll be left craving more from this world.
I also think it’s a solid fairy tale retelling. It respects earlier versions while still creating a new take.
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Thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.