The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine
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.
— From the book jacket of The Shadow Queen
Snow White with a dash of Robin Hood, a heavy dose of magic, and dragons thrown in for good measure. What more could you want from a book?
Lorelai and her brother Leo have been on the run for nine years following the death of their father, the king of Ravenspire, at the hands of their evil stepmother, Irina. As a powerful sorceress, or mardushka, hell-bent on retaining the immense power she feels she deserves, Irina has siphoned nearly all of the energy from the heart of the land, leaving it barren and her people starving. Lorelai and Leo, along with their guardian, Gabril, have one goal– build up Lorelai’s magic and steadily work their way toward the capital city in order to kill the Queen and save their rightful kingdom. Along the way, to gain favor of the people of Ravenspire, they’ve been robbing supply wagons to give food to the surrounding villages in desperate need of nourishment. It is in one of these villages that they save a man named Kol as he is being attacked and chased by starving villagers.
Despite being the second son of the King of Eldr, Kol has been thrust into his Father’s role after tragedy strikes on the front lines of the war his country is fighting against an army of ogres. His first task as King is to find a way to defeat the ogres using magic– magic so powerful that it has been outlawed through most of the land. Magic that only Irina is known to use. Kol has come to Ravenspire to ask for Irina’s help in exchange some of Eldr’s wealth to buy food for her starving land from neighboring kingdoms.
Irina agrees to help Kol and his kingdom, but she cares little for the wealth he offers. Instead, she requests that he bring her Lorelai– or more specifically, her heart. When Kol realizes the girl he is hunting is actually the girl who saved him, he fights desperately against Irina’s power, refusing to harm Lorelai, and offering his help to her to defeat the evil Queen.
Irina may be powerful, but both Lorelai and Kol are willing to sacrifice everything in order to bring Irina down and save their kingdoms. In this action packed retelling of Grimm’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it will take all the will, courage, strength, and determination they have to fight against the magic of the most powerful sorceress the world has ever seen.
The parallels to the Grimm’s Fairy Tales story of Snow White are very prevalent– the evil stepmother, the poisoned apples, even Lorelai’s appearance– dark hair, pale skin, and red lips– mirrors Snow White’s description of, “white as snow, red as blood, with hair as black as ebony”. The huntsman and the prince of Snow White are one and the same in The Shadow Queen— Kol, who is bespelled by Irina to bring Lorelai’s heart in exchange for the magic to save his own kingdom, is also the prince who will eventually save Lorelai. In The Shadow Queen, Irina asks for Lorelai’s heart, but in the original tale, it varies depending on translation– in most I’ve found, the Queen asks for Snow White’s liver and lungs, while the version I have, she requests her heart and tongue. Either way, eww.
And while there are no dwarfs in The Shadow Queen, the number seven still plays a role– seven robberies to feed the people, and seven dragons to save the kingdom. (Dragons who are said to have the ability to sniff out gold and treasure, much like pint-sized miners?) There’s just enough resemblance to the original tale to make its influence obvious, but there’s more than enough deviance from it to make this retelling stand firmly on its own two feet. It’s a very well crafted story with carefully thought out characters– a refreshing relief after reading Seven Black Diamonds. If you like retellings, or just a good fairy tale-like story, I recommend this one.
As far as content appropriateness, there are no instances of language within the book, and while there is a bit of romance, it is nothing more than kissing. However, because of a bit of violence, and sometimes graphic allusions to violence, it would be acceptable to more mature readers in higher middle grades, but more likely appropriate for high school and beyond.
On the author’s website, the book is listed as Ravenspire #1, which leads me to believe there will be at least a #2. I’m curious to see where the next book goes, because unlike most of the original Grimm’s tales, this one seemed to wrap up with the implied “Happily Ever After”.
Learn more about C.J. Redwine