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.”