The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire #1)
by C.J. Redwine.
Princess Lorelai has a great life- a loving family, a kingdom that dotes on her, budding magical power. Until her mother dies, and her father remarries. Her new stepmother seems charming at first, but is soon revealed to be an evil witch. In the disaster that claims her father’s life, Lorelai escapes with her brother and a trusted guard. She spends the next decade planning and building her strength (both physically and magically) in order to finally face the evil queen. When the king from a neighboring land (who also happens to be part dragon) visits the queen to beg magical aid against an invasion, she traps him into a pact: the princess’ heart in exchange for her help. And so things start coming to a head.
This in an interesting retelling of Snow White. There are enough recognizable elements from the fairytale that’d you catch on pretty soon if you didn’t know going in, but not so many that it’s bashing you over the head with it (no glass coffin, no dwarves, no crone). You’ve still got your standard evil queen with a magic mirror routine. But many of the elements that are there are used in new ways. The huntsman is part dragon. The apples are used by the queen on everyone but the princess. Even the significance of wanting the princess’ heart has new meaning.
Things I liked: Lorelai very rarely needs rescuing. She’s a strong, smart character, more often the one coming up with the plan than not. This is refreshing break from the normal swoon-and-wait fairytale trope. I liked the bit of Russian/Eastern European flavor with some of the names and titles. I liked that the magic wasn’t just pretty or easy. The author allowed things to go a bit dark when needed, which again is refreshing. I liked that Lorelai had a brother, and that the author didn’t try to fit in dwarves somewhere with all of this other craziness going on.
Things I didn’t like: the evil queen’s backstory/motivation just fell flat for me. The world building also was a bit weak- I didn’t understand why, when the queen has magic tendrils everywhere to sense things, she would still need communication towers? For what? Also, you guys know I love me some dragons, but the book never addressed a very important issue: are these dragon shapeshifters even *ahem* compatible with humans? Physically and genetically?
As for the love story… I don’t know. I liked both characters individually. And it was part insta-attraction, but also part slow build, which is better than most YA love stories. They had some good banter. I think the fact that events in the book wrapped up rather quickly and they didn’t get a chance to discuss what they were or what’s next kind of soured it for me. It’s not really a happy ending if you skip that part.
But overall, I still enjoyed this book. It’s my understanding that each book in this series will focus on a different kingdom in this world, so I’d guess Lorelai and Kol’s story is pretty much done, though it wouldn’t surprise me to seem them pop up as secondary characters in future books. Either way, I’m interested to see where this series goes, and which fairytale will be up for retelling next.