Author: C.J Redwine
Book(s): The Shadow Queen (book 1)
Number of books in series: 3
Publisher: Scholastic UK, Harper Collins
Release date(s): 3rd March 2016
Source: Sent to me by Scholastic UK
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 of his own—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.
I’m going to start this review by saying that reading is a completely personal experience. After I finished reading The Shadow Queen, I read a few reviews on Goodreads to see what other people thought of it and discovered that opinions were definitely split. Some loved the book, some disliked it and some just didn’t feel anything towards it. I was a mixture of all three.
The book started of quite interestingly with a flashback to the evil queen overthrowing the empire and claiming the throne. It then switches to the present when Princess Lorelai and her younger brother are fugitives against the crown and are planning revenge against Queen Irina. This might have been a bit different to the way normal dystopian fantasies start off, but the whole book just felt like I’d read it before. This might have been partly down to it being a fantasy re-telling of Snow White, but I’ve read retellings before that didn’t give me déjà vu.
One thing I did like about The Shadow Queen was the three different voices given through alternating chapters of Princess Lorelai, Queen Irina and Prince Kol. It added a depth that otherwise wouldn’t have been there, but I’m not so sure whether or not it added much else, as none of the protagonists were particularly memorable. The “Evil Queen” of the story felt like a wannabe compared to other villains I’ve come across – yes, some of her acts were monstrous, but I didn’t feel scared of her and at no point did I fear for Lorelai’s safety (I’m pretty sure anyone could have taken her down!)
It’s rare in a book that I actually like the romance but I genuinely loved the relationship that built between Lorelai and Kol, and I found myself rooting for them the whole way through. The author built up the tension between them gradually enough, so that it didn’t feel too unrealistic compared to some romances I’ve cringed my way through before. Similarly, there was a really heart-warming connection between Lorelai and her “pet” falcon Sasha in the book, through a mental bond that allows them to “speak” telepathically to each other. This added light in the story through some well written humour which came into play at the perfect moments.
There were quite a few clichéd plot devices used in the story, which was a shame to read, but they did what they were designed to do and drove the story forward. Whilst it was slow going to start off, the pace really picked up about half way through and I flew through the last half of the book.
Even though this book falls under the fantasy bracket, it definitely had strong dystopian elements like poverty, corruption, survival and propaganda. I was quite intrigued by the state of poverty that many of the towns were in, but it did feel a bit glossed over and I really would have liked to have seen more of an exploration into it. Having said that, the whole book was about Lorelai’s journey and the towns were only a minor part of that, so we might not have been able to get to know the characters as well if it was all about the setting.
Talking about setting, I didn’t feel as though the world building was very strong, as throughout the whole book I couldn’t picture what the world actually looked like. I would start to get a grasp of some sort of setting, but then the author would add in another complex aspect that would just throw me. As if mardushkas and draconi weren’t enough (I hadn’t heard of either before I read The Shadow Queen), fae, ogres and peasants were thrown into the mix, just to confuse me some more. Oh, and did I mention that the draconi have two hearts? Yeah, there’s a lot of weird heart stealing magic in the book too… This might have all been to path the way for future books, but for me, first books should make you want to read more (therefore justifying the sequels) which The Shadow Queen just didn’t particularly do for me.
This might be a bit of a mixed review, but please don’t let that put you off reading The Shadow Queen. It was definitely still an enjoyable read and I’d recommend it to any fantasy fans, but for me it just didn’t live up to other similar books I’ve had the pleasure of reading.