I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine
Series: Ravenspire #1
Published by Scholastic on 3rd March 2016 (UK)
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy, Retellings
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.
I seem to have been reading quite a few retellings recently, and I’m really enjoying them. I heard about The Shadow Queen sometime last year and my interest was immediately piqued – a ‘Snow White retelling’ was all I knew when I added it to my 2016 wishlist. Well, let me tell you that I loved it! Yes, there are obvious tropes because, well, it’s a retelling! But it is so much more than ‘just’ a retelling. For one, there are dragons!
Lorelai is the rightful Queen of Ravenspire and yet she and her brother Leo have been on the run, hiding from the Crown for the past nine years. When their mother died, their father married their mother’s sister, Irina. Like her mother, Lorelai is a Mardushka, a sort of witch and her aunt also holds this power.
As Irina tries to take over the role as their mother, Lorelai realises that Irina’s been using magic to bend the court and the King to her will. While the court are enjoying apples, Lorelai realises that they aren’t normal apples, they are rotten inside with the power of Irina’s magic. So she confronts Irina, cases a counterspell and, well, things go wrong. Her father, the King, is killed and Lorelai flees the Palace with her younger brother, promising her father she will keep him safe. They are accompanied and protected by Gabril, a former Palace Guard, and spend the next nine years of their lives avoiding discovery. Gabril makes Lorelai wear gloves, knowing that should her bare hand touch anything affected by Irina’s magic, the evil Queen would know she is still alive.
So, there’s the background complete with an evil Stepmother and poisoned apples. We join Lorelai together with Leo and Gibril in the present day. They are slowly planning their revenge on Irina while Gabril trains them physically to protect themselves, as well as maintaining lessons on courtly behaviour for when they finally return to the Throne.
Meanwhile, in the neighbouring country of Eldr, their Prince Kol is dealing with his own personal tragedy and an army of magic wielding ogres who are beginning to overrun his country. Knowing he needs the help of a Mardushka he travels to Ravenspire to plead for Irina’s help. He ends up locked in a blood oath that will control his life, and endanger the life of Lorelai.
What follows is magic, dragons, romance and war.
That’s about as much as I’m going to tell you, however I do want to share some of the things I liked, some things I didn’t like, and a couple of cool things too!
I mentioned dragons? Well Kol and his countrymen are Draconi. They have 2 hearts (1 human, 1 dragon) and they can shift into their dragon form at will. Honestly, I loved the Draconi!
I haven’t yet mentioned Sasha. She is a gyrfalcon that Lorelai saved when first on the run. In using her magic to rescue the bird they have formed a bond whereby they pass messages to one another telepathically. Again, I really liked this concept and I’m a sucker for an animal with a personality!
The magic system in this book requires the use of a heart, whether that be human, dragon, mountain, river, tree. Irina has slowly been sucking the life out of Ravenspire leaving barren lands and food shortages in order to increase her power. I really liked this magic system. In using a willing heart, the strain of performing spells is much less than with that of an unwilling one. A cool concept.
What about the rest of the characters? I liked Leo, he’s a cool wee guy. I enjoyed his banter and his relationship with his sister. As for Lorelai herself, I found her to be very likeable, a good strong female lead. Then there’s Gibril, I really appreciated his character, not only his commitment to the two Royals but also his love for them.
I did have an issue with one part of the book though. It’s hard to explain without giving spoilers so I’m going to hide them below. Seriously, don’t open it if you don’t want spoiled!View Spoiler »I really loved Kol, but I struggled with part of his storyline. So, Irina has stolen his human heart leaving him with only his dragon heart, so he will hunt and destroy Lorelai, the idea being that his mind cannot overcome his dragon instincts. Yet, it’s without his human heart in his body that he falls in love with Lorelai. He’s supposed to be consumed by rage and dragonness (yes, that’s a word), but I didn’t see that. Yes, Lorelai’s magic helped to soothe the affects of Irina’s control, but hmm I just struggled with that whole dragon-hearted romance thing. Just me? « Hide Spoiler
This book made me laugh, it hurt my heart, it held me in suspense and it made me smile. It’s an easy read and I really enjoyed it.
Oh and dragons!! <3