Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

Book: The Shadow Queen
Author: C.J. Redwine
Series: Ravenspire #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bay
Pages: 387
Release: February 16th 2016

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 finally--FINALLY--got the chance to read the book that has been sitting on my Most Highly Anticipated Books of 2016 list. 8 months after it's release. EIGHT. MONTHS.

Going in, I knew this would yet again be one of the most underrated books of the year. Redwine is a brilliant author; her writing is just so lyrical, her characters remarkable and fascinating, and her plot lines wonderfully complex yet simple. I expected nothing less than Redwine's poetic writing with this book, and I was far from disappointed! I could quote the entire book, with its lush imagery and heartful proclamations of courage and loss. Redwine's magic system and world building were on-point, her characters brilliant and relatable, and though the main plot was familiar given that it was a retelling, the events and circumstances leading up to them were completely fresh and imaginative!

This series of standalone retellings set in the same world begins in the kingdom of Ravenspire. Lorelai, the crown princess and rightful heir of the Ravenspire throne, has been an outlaw and fugitive after narrowly escaping with her and her brother's lives nine years ago when her step-mother, Irina, attempted to murder everyone after Lorelai exposed her bewitching magic. In a neighbouring kingdom, Prince Kol has been handed the throne after the untimely deaths of his parents and older brother. Desperate to save his kingdom from the attacks of ogres, he ventures to Ravenspire to make a deal with Queen Irina. But she adds on terms of her own: for Kol to hunt down the fugitive princess Lorelai and take her heart.

Lorelai was a combination of fierce, determined, and intelligent. Every the strategist, she planned everything down to the last detail, her thoughts never confining with the expectations of others. She was constantly thinking beyond the box, her plans fluid and easily interchangeable with her surroundings. What I particularly loved about her was the fact that she never backed down; not once did she let doubt cloud her judgement, or let sorrow impact her actions. She channeled all her emotions into one clear goal, ready to use any means possible to obtain it. But she was also merciful, and often gave others the benefit of doubt. Lorelai always did what was right, even at the cost of her own, so long as it didn't completely forsake her overall mission. And even as a magic-wielder, it was clear her magic didn't make up who she was, nor was she dependant on it; magic was merely one means in her arsenal, with her brilliant plans and schemes the true driving force behind her success. I desperately wanted to see more of her, and am saddened that this is the only story we get of her!

"Fury was a burning stone in Lorelai's chest. It was the power in her blood, the strength of her bones. It was the beat of her heart--the heart of Ravenspire's true queen come to save those she loved from ruin."

There have been numerous stories of companion creatures, like cats and dragons. However, Lorelai's companion, a gyrfalcon named Sasha, was nothing like I'd ever read about. She was most definitely an active member of the party, and played numerous crucial roles in aiding Lorelai get out of a few sticky situations. Lorelai was able to connect with Sasha's mind with her magic, and I absolutely loved the communication lines between the two! You know you've won a gyrfalcon's affection when she constantly tries to offer to share some of her kills with you!

Right from the start, I knew I liked Leo. As Lorelai's brother, he was the perfect counterpart to Lorelai's serious nature, always coming up with some absurd way to lighten the mood. From jokes about courtly manners to pulling off outrageous disguises, Leo was someone who challenged Lorelai to be more lighthearted, and to live in the moment rather than plan in the moment. But when push came to shove, he was equally as skilled as Lorelai in parkour, and shared the same level of protectiveness for Lorelai as she did for Leo. They were the siblings through and through, and honestly, I couldn't help but just love them to bits. Those two are what siblings are supposed to be.

"We could just head to the capital now and yell, 'Surprise, you slimy coward! We're not dead, but you're about to be!' and then you can turn her into a pile of fungus."

Kol was such a great character to get to know. He goes through all kinds of despair, from the deaths of his parents and his elder brother to being unable to live up to his father or his brother's legacy to having no idea how to save his kingdom to finding himself tricked and trapped in a horrible deal by Irina. Talk about hard choices! But through it all, his selflessness really appeared. He was willing to subject himself to personal horrors in order to ensure the Eldr had a future, that he would be able to at least do one thing right. 

"All those friends of yours willing to follow you into the jaws of death without you even asking them to? It's because they know what I know--that you have the kind of bottomless strength and loyalty that will always put others first at the expense of yourself. You are exactly the kind of king Eldr needs right now."

The concept of magic was such a fresh take on it, nothing like I'd ever read about. Both Irina and Lorelai were called mardushka, and their magic was based upon controlling hearts. If you wanted to have the forest at your beck and call, you needed to find a way to get the hearts of all the trees to yield to your will. But done forcefully (like Irina), it could weaken the mardushka's heart. But if the hearts submit themselves willingly, the only limit to said mardushka's power would be his or her own limitations. Natural/nature magic at its finest!

Though this book is a Snow White retelling, I found it more to be a loose retelling. The three main characters are the same (the princess, the evil queen, the huntsman), but everything else was relatively different. The plot did follow the very basis of the original Snow White tale, but all the events leading up to them or following them were completely different in the best way. From epic displays of magic to Lorelai's plans of overthrowing Irina, they were original plot lines that so cleverly lined up to the overall Snow White plot line! The plot always twisted and turned, something unexpected always ready to happen just around the bend to test Lorelai.

"You don't go into battle because you're sure of victory," Gabril said. "You go into battle because it's the right thing to do."

This book is just a masterpiece. Redwine takes the minimal concepts of Snow White we're all familiar with and completely reimagines it, filling in the gaps with a fierce protagonist who is immune the the queen's attempts on her life, all set in such a beautiful, well-written world. With strong themes of love and loss and hope, it's just so easy to fall in love with this book. After all, in the end it's not Lorelai who needs saving from Irina, but Irina who need saving from Lorelai! 


  1. This one sounds amazing! How can it be so underrated? The characters are all look really badass and smart, and the magic really intrigues me. I would definitely add this book to my tbr. Lovely review Erika!

    1. Thank you so much, Tasya! I feel that Redwine is an extremely underrated author, and she deserves so much more credit! Her works are absolutely breathtaking, and her characters are equal amounts of bravery, cunning, and virtuous. Why people don't read more of her is mystery to me!

  2. Great review! I still need to pick this one up from the library. I've been dying to read it!

    1. Thanks! I hope you'll pick it up soon, because it is absolutely worth reading!

  3. I saw a lot of anticipation for this book, and mixed reviews. I'm so intrigued by your description of the characters and the writing though! I'll be keeping an eye out for it. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Erika! <3

    1. You're welcome! This book definitely is a favourite of mine, so I hope you'll pick it up some day!