A dark epic fantasy inspired by the tale of Snow White, from C. J. Redwine, the author of the Defiance series. Perfect for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses and Cinder. 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 of his own—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.
The Shadow QueenFeatured
Retelling at its finest
When Lorelai was a young child who watched her stepmother, Queen Irina, destroy her family (literally), she vowed to return to take back the throne. In the years following, Lorelai trained her body, mind, and magic to become better than the dangerous woman crushing Lorelai’s beloved kingdom. Now, the time has come to face Irina. A nearby Prince Kol has just sorrowfully stepped up to his own kingdom’s throne after tragic deaths in the ogre wars, and he makes a deal with Irina to save his people…in exchange for Lorelai’s heart. As the two young royals both journey to save their kingdoms, they will find they have more in common than expected, but the wicked queen won’t go down without a war against all who oppose her.
On paper, THE SHADOW QUEEN proclaimed everything I love: fairy tale retellings, strong characters, magic, and castles. No matter how good a synopsis sounds, however, there is no guarantee that those elements will all work together to create a brilliant story. Thank the skies, THE SHADOW QUEEN swept past every expectation I had with wings stronger than a dragon’s.
The characters are the bleeding heart of the story (pun unintended, but happily accepted). Lorelai is determined, kind, and fierce. She is a true warrior, full of honor and an unwavering love for her suffering kingdom. What I love most about her is her strategizing. She isn’t one to leap into a dangerous situation without a plan or a confidence in her abilities. Her calculating mindset, combined with her very sincere resolve, make believing in her place as queen easy. Likewise, Kol is an equally remarkable character, and I love the dragon action tied in with him. Their relationship evolves from one of almost diplomatic respect to a deep friendship to a slow, slow romance, and it holds all the warmth and adorableness of a fairy tale with the sweet awkwardness and complexities that come with learning to trust someone in a dangerous world.
The villain, Queen Irina, is heartbreakingly realistic. Readers will see her continuously presented with chances to be merciful, to be kind, and to simply not act evil. At the end of the day, Irina is not a monster born to do bad; she is a person with power who, when presented with a choice, chooses evil, revenge, and hate. When stripped down to their hearts, Irina and Lorelai truly reveal what consequences those choices have.
As much as I adore the main characters, the secondary characters, especially Jyn, Trugg, and Sasha, are such delightful additions to the story. I laughed so many times during their dialogues. The battles scenes throughout the story are truly epic as well, often involving mountains, waterfalls, and giant trees.
C.J. Redwine’s THE SHADOW QUEEN is retelling at its finest, taking the bare bones of the original and shaking everything up to see how the story could be different. Lorelai is the kind of queen we can all hail with strength and a desire to do good as her most powerful arsenal.
-Awesome twist on Snow White
-Sassy Sasha the gyrfalcon
Not-Your-Mama's Snow White
As YA fairytale retellings go, this one is a thoughtfully crafted fantasy smorgasbord.
Redwine’s alternate version of Snow White isn’t some waifish, naive songbird—sleeping off her questionable life choices while waiting on a rescue. (Sorry, Disney fans. Please don’t troll me.)
Here instead we have a cunning rebel sorceress for a princess, who’s been secretly training for a decade to overthrow her murderous, throne-stealing aunt. Did I mention she’s also a kick-butt falconer who excels at parkour? Oh, and the handsome prince is a freshly orphaned dragon shifter, who is trying desperately to save the kingdom he doesn’t feel worthy of leading.
The Shadow Queen is written in third-person past-tense, from multiple POVs (primarily Lorelei and Kol’s, but with crucial perspective snippets from queen Irina.) The pacing moves along at a rapid clip, complemented by snappy dialogue and well-rounded characterization. Redwine’s prose itself is strong both in conveyance of emotion and the sound handling of frequent action scenes.
Above all, this tale carries the persisting theme of doing what’s right--even when it costs you more than you want to pay.
The brother/sister dynamic between Lorelai and Leo was spot-on endearing. Fierce loyalty, with an authenticating touch of mutual annoyance.
Lorelai smirked at Leo, who raised a brow and then glared up at the sky. "The two of you are conspiring against me again, aren't you?"
"She just wants to share her lunch with you."
Leo blanched. "Last time she shared, I got a face full of rabbit guts from above. Tell your bird to keep her victims to herself.”
The worldbuilding in this stand-alone is fairly extensive, with an array of adjoining kingdoms (complete with map!) that are likely to receive individual play time in future books within this series. Much of the names and terminology carry Slavic-sounding underpinnings, the extent of which this reviewer isn’t qualified to analyze. All I can say is that the usage was vaguely guttural, consistent without being overwhelming, and overall appealing in the medieval-fantastical atmosphere it conjured.
This reader would have been interested to see a little more detail on whether lifespans vary between differing peoples, and whether Human/Eldr pairings were at all unprecedented in this world’s history. But perhaps more intricate matters of biologic compatibility will be addressed in future installments.
If you’re a fan of retellings that manage to turn a classic on its head in all the right ways, this book may be right up your alley.
“You don't go into battle because you're sure of victory. You go into battle because it's the right thing to do.”
In the Kingdom of Ravenspire, Lorelei is the crown princess and a fugitive ever since Queen Irina murdered her father and stole the throne. Lorelei is determined to get revenge and, with her brother and her father’s most trusted guard at her side, she has a plan to kill the queen. In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, Prince Kol has always been reckless and carefree as the second born prince. He was never meant to take the throne but when tragedy strikes his parents and older brother, he finds himself in charge of a kingdom slowly losing the battle against an army of ogres. In exchange for Queen Irina’s help against the ogres, Kol agrees to kill Lorelei and bring the queen the heart of the princess. But when their paths do cross, Kol finds that Lorelei is nothing like he expected and the princess finds herself drawn to the newly crowned king. Together they might be able to achieve both their goals but Queen Irina has a few hidden moves left to play.
This was one of my most anticipated books since the moment I first heard about it. The cover design caught my attention right away(it’s so gorgeous!) and the synopsis sounded like something I would really enjoy. It also sounded like the type of book I could easily read in a sitting because I wouldn’t want to put it down. And I was right.
I absolutely adored Lorelei. She was strong and so protective over her brother. She was so determined to take her kingdom back from Irina and her heart hurt for her people who were starving because of the queen’s cruelty. She had a way of seeing the good in people and that served her well throughout the book. She was a character that I really connected to while reading. I trusted those she trusted, I got angry and wanted revenge along with her, my heart broke with hers. I loved her bond with her little brother Leo. The teasing and obvious affection they showed each other was heartwarming in the tense moments.
Kol was another great character. His was the second POV and I felt for him. He was thrust into a life he never expected to have and just wanted to do whatever it took to save his kingdom. He went from being reckless and a bit of a prankster to having to be a king, and while he may have still been a bit reckless in his attempts, his only desire was to save his people.
I enjoyed the spin on the original tale. The huntsman was a dragon-shifter, as were his friends, and the princess had powerful magic. There was so much new added to the story that it felt like a completely new story instead of a retelling. It was easy to read it all in one sitting because it was action-packed and every chapter end just made me say ‘one more chapter’. Even when there was no fighting or action immediately happening, it was entertaining to read the characters’ bantering and teasing each other. I laughed out loud quite a few times. I also cried and screamed a few times as well. It was definitely an emotional read that I felt very invested in finishing.
Other than the dynamics between the characters, my favourite thing about this book was the world. Both Ravenspire and Eldr were vividly described and I really liked the way different kingdoms had different abilities and beliefs. Ravenspire had magic, Eldr shifted into dragons, and there were mentions of other kingdoms, some with no magic, some with magic, some who hated dragon shifters. It all helped to make the world-building feel complete but without feeling like I had learned everything so when the next book comes out, I have more world-building to look forward to. And more characters to fall in love with.