Welcome back! School has started up again, but over the break we got lots of reading done. One of the books I (Sarena) read was THE SHADOW QUEEN by CJ Redwine. This book is a retelling of Snow White, and I got a lot of awesome Snow White-esque vibes from the cover.
Check out the cover and synopsis below!
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.
**Disclaimer: I was provided an eARC from HarperCollins via Edelweiss. This has in no way affected/biased my review.
I picked up this book mostly because I was in the mood for something fantasy-esque (which this book certainly is) but also because I adore retellings. After having read WINTER by Marissa Meyer, one of my favourite books of the year, I was a bit skeptical as to whether THE SHADOW QUEEN would be as good of a retelling as WINTER.
Both covers are similar, too, with apples on the cover. In WINTER it has a bit more of a sci-fi look to it, since the book takes place in the future. This one is simple–and though at first I wasn’t sure whether I liked it, it has really grown on me! I especially like how the black apple on the cover ties in symbolically to the apples in the novel.
This book had its highs and lows. For the positives: I loved the writing and the setting. This book is written in 3rd person, though I still felt so connected and invested in the characters. The main character, Lorelai, was strong and fierce. Oftentimes I find similar characteristics among princesses in YA novels, though I liked Lorelai’s distinctive characteristics. Her strength and ability to wield magic. That’s one thing that really separated this story from its original “Snow White” inspiration: magic.
I also really liked the huntsman (and also having the capability to turn into a dragon? SO. COOL.) Though the love relationship that built between Lorelai and the huntsman was likeable and oftentimes reminded me a LOT of Once Upon a Time (one of my fave shows), it also fell a little flat. It reminded me of so many other relationships I’ve read in YA, and I needed something more to bind them together.
I really liked the author’s approach to writing this book. There were so many perspective switches but I really enjoyed them and felt like I learned a lot more about the evil queen, Irina. However, I kept comparing Irina’s perspective to Levana from the Lunar Chronicles and found that there really wasn’t as much depth to Irina as I’d hoped. Her ability to pull out hearts is super cool, though I just needed more about her past in order to connect with her. (These scenes totally reminded me of OUAT, in a good way!)
There are parts of the book that come off a bit slow, but the atmosphere is still beautifully written and encapsulating. I loved the world CJ Redwine built (Ravenspire, Eldr) and I can tell why so many readers enjoy her other series (Defiance, which I have not yet read!).
If there was something I didn’t like about the book, it was that it felt too much like the original Snow White story. A typical queen, huntsman, with a magical twist. I felt like I knew exactly where the story was going. There were a few parts, though, that made it less predictable and held that signature CJ fantasy element: Sasha, the bird, was one of my favourite characters. I loved her from the start and I felt that Lorelai’s ability to communicate through her mind was something that strengthened the book and provided a lot of humour. There were moments reading this book when I had to put the e-reader down and think, Did that really just happen? I refuse to believe it. I’m happy the author could elicit that kind of reaction from me, because it made me feel more engaged with the story.
Overall, it was a bit of a typical retelling, and I wanted more depth from the characters, especially Irina. I wished we could learn more about her past, but that might come in future books (according to Goodreads this is a series–not entirely sure of how long it is!). The writing and main character (and Sasha!) however, made this an enjoyable read still.
Rating: 3.5/5 (rounded up to 4 on Goodreads)
Recommended if you like:
- Once Upon a Time (show)
- Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes