Title: The Shadow Queen
Series: Ravenspire #1
Author: C. J. Redwine
Genre: YA, Retellings, Fantasy
Published: February 16th, 2016 (Balzer + Bray)
Synopsis: 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.
This retelling of Snow White begins with a prologue narrating how the evil Queen Irina took over Ravenspire and how the Crown Princess Lorelai and her younger brother became fugitives in their own kingdom. Years later, Lorelai is training in secret, honing her magic and skills as she plots to take back her throne, avenge her father and put an end to the suffering of her people. Meanwhile in the neighbouring kingdom of Eldr, second-born Prince Kol finds himself ascending to the throne he never wanted after his family is killed during an ogre invasion. These are magical ogres however, and only magic can destroy them, so he sets out to seek aid from the only known Mardushka, Irina, Queen of Ravenspire. The Queen offers him a deal – in return for her aid, Kol must bring her Princess Lorelai’s heart.
Here’s another review that I’ve been meaning to write forever! Though this is technically the first book in the Ravenspire series, I ended up reading it last – which turned out to be a good thing, because I had a much better idea of the kingdoms and the boundaries of the world this story is set in, something which The Shadow Queen does not provide a very good introduction to. I love retellings, and I’m very fond of this series in particular since it picks up some of the classic fairytales and reimagines them in a new land, with each book centred on a different kingdom. It can be read in any order too, and I enjoy spotting the subtle connections and references between the different books.
I really liked this version of Snow White. While Lorelai is kind and caring, she is also fierce, determined and intelligent, far from a helpless princess needing to be rescued which is one trope that really annoys me when I look back at fairytales I read as a child. That the story involved dragons was certainly a surprise, and Kol being a Draconi able to shape-shift into a dragon at will was just really cool. It was also a nice touch that we get to read from both Lorelai and Kol’s POVs although the book itself is in third person. I like that Redwine’s retellings allow us to follow both character arcs, which lend more depth to the story. On Lorelai’s side, it is about her rising up to claim a right that has always been hers, whereas for Kol, it is all about him learning to deal with and grow into this responsibility that he has been thrust into in the middle of his grief.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was how Lorelai’s little brother Leo’s arc was handled. It felt entirely unnecessary, especially since he was the most likeable character by far. While the story itself did not feel all that unique, mostly due to it not straying too far from the original, it was an action-packed novel with unexpected moments of humour despite the dark and serious tone, and yet still manages a happily ever after ending! I would definitely recommend this series for fans of fairytale retellings!