The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (16th Feb 2016)
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.
When I was drafting my Top Ten Tuesday post for my most anticipated books of the first half of 2016, I included The Shadow Queen on the list because right from the first time I laid eyes on the cover, I was enamoured. I love fairytale retellings and I couldn’t help but feel really excited for the first book in the Ravenspire series.
One of the things I look forward to reading fantasy is the element of magic and the occasional romance, and judging from the blurb of The Shadow Queen, I expected epic magic duels and heart-stopping action. What I got when I read it was something similar but I found it rather lacklustre. Before you gasp in horror at my audacity to not love a book like The Shadow Queen, I do have my reasons.
The Shadow Queen, as I’ve mentioned, is the first book in C. J. Redwine’s new Ravenspire series and it is the retelling of Snow White. The heroine Lorelai is a princess who has been living in exile for the past 9 years after her stepmother, a “mardushka”, killed her father and took over the kingdom of Ravenspire. What attracted my attention to the book was that Lorelai is also a “mardushka” and she’s vowed to dethrone the evil queen and reclaim what is rightfully hers. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Add a sexy, honourable king from a neighbouring kingdom who could shift into a dragon into the mix and you’ve got yourself an epic fantasy with the promise of some romance.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked The Shadow Queen enough to finish it. I even tried really hard to love it but I didn’t. I couldn’t find it in me to fall in love with the story and its characters. Even until the last page, where the story ended. There were elements of the story that made it really special but they weren’t enough to enable me to fully immerse myself in the story and the universe that C. J. Redwine had created. Since the blurb enticed me to read it because I was anticipating a huge, epic and thrilling finale, it wasn’t what I expected as the ending was a bit abrupt for me.
The writing was good as it blended with the setting of the story and I liked the introduction of the kingdoms surrounding Ravenspire but I was slightly disappointed that C. J. Redwine didn’t further explore the other kingdoms, aside from Eldr, where Kol is from. As for the characters, I really liked Leo, he reminded me so much of myself and I liked the closeness of the relationship between Lorelai and Leo. The romance between Lorelai and Kol, the dragon dude, was a different ballpark. The flirty banter was such a treat and I was rooting for them the moment things started heating up! Lorelai was an easy character to root for because she’s strong-willed and fearless and I really like strong female characters. Other than that, she was just Lorelai, underdeveloped and a bit stoic. Okay, very stoic.
If you know how Snow White pans out, you’ll like how C. J. Redwine captures the essence of the original story and add her own twists and flair into the story to make it hers. Overall, I felt that The Shadow Queen was an enjoyable read and the plot was OK-ish, but I wasn’t hugely impressed with how the story went. For me, it was a clever reimagining of the classic fairytale with a fiery romance and some notes of dark fantasy were thrown into the story. I tried really hard to like the story but it fell flat for me and it was really upset that I couldn’t like it more. But hey, at least the cover is lush!
The Shadow Queen is out on 16th Feb 2016. I’d like to thank HarperCollins for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.