Title: The Shadow Queen
Author: C.J. Redwine
Release Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)
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.
The Shadow Queen is a dark and twisted fairy tale retelling, a battle of wills and power.
Lorelai is a combination of strong and weak. The sudden death of her father and betrayal of her stepmother hardened her, made her grow up quickly. The sudden responsibility of watching over her younger brother made her watchful, cautious. Her magic, her skill, makes her a force to be reckoned with. It makes her dangerous. But that doesn't mean she isn't afraid. She fears going up against Irina, of being defeated, of not being strong enough. She's afraid that she'll never be strong enough to reclaim her throne. This way of thinking, Lorelai can't see that she's holding herself back. She sees Irina as an unbeatable enemy. Until Lorelai is pushed too far, until Irina's terror hits her where it hurts.
On the other hand, Kol is reckless and foolish, head-strong, and full of fire. Not just because he's a dragon. The unexpected king, he feels the pressure to rule and be sensible like never before. The interactions between him and Lorelai make for some amusing banter as they both trying to figure each other out, figure themselves out, and figure out how to defeat Irina without everyone dying in the process.
As I read this, I wondered if others would compare Irina to Levana of the Lunar Chronicles series. Both have been wronged, ignored, both feel that they've been cheated. Both have committed terrible acts in order to get what they want. There's this trend going on where the villains are shown as being three dimensional, where their motives and reasons are becoming more plausible beyond just being evil and battling the heroes. Where they're actual people.
This book does a good job at keeping up the tension. Lorelai is very good at a number of things, but there were always stepping stones for her to walk across. Always obstacles in her path. Always times where someone was either too reckless, too involved, or too worried about someone else instead of themselves. I thought it was the first in a series, not the first in a series of connected stories, so I was a little confused when a proper ending appeared. That being said, I wasn't disappointed. And I'm curious as to where the following books will go in this fantasy world. I would recommend this to those looking for more fairy tale retellings with interesting heroines.
(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.)