The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine is at first glance, another in a long list of fairy tale re-tellings that are currently glutting the young adult marketplace. That is at first glance, and this novel deserves so much more than just a glance. It is one of the better developed and written fantasy novels I have run across for some time. Yes it is a re-telling of the Snow White fairy tale, but then it is so much more that it may carve out its own piece of this legend’s pie.
Lorelai Diederich and her younger brother are fugitives in the kingdom of Ravenspire. They are also the rightful heirs to the throne. Driven into hiding, they fight for the opportunity to return to their father’s home. What stands in their is the Queen Irina. Sister to Lorelai’s mother and stepmother to Lorelai and her brother. The Queen cast a spell on the kingdom and the King himself, but Lorelai discovered this and broke the spell for a short time. This resulted in the death of the King and all those loyal to the King. Lorelai took her younger brother and went into hiding.
Irina is an enchantress and with power of dark magic keeps the kingdom of Ravenspire under her control. But the crown princess, Lorelai also has magic in her blood and as time passes, she grows in power and strength. Soon she will challenge her stepmother.
In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, Prince Kol is alerted of a terrible tragedy. His kingdom is under attack by an invading army of ogres and his father and older brother are killed. He is forced into the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To defeat the ogres, Kol needs the power of magic and decides he must ask help from the Queen of Ravenspire. She agrees on one condition, Kol must become her personal huntsman and bring her the heart of the crown princess Lorelai. Kol and all of his kingdom have their power, they transform themselves into dragons. To save his kingdom, Kol agrees to fulfill this dark task.
Princess Lorelai has decided she isn’t running anymore, and with her own power, is ready to take on the Queen and her Huntsman. But at what cost is victory?
Lorelai is not Disney’s version of Snow White and there is no Prince coming along to save her. In fact, the prince (now King with the death of his father and brother) is actually coming to kill her. Queen Irina is a terrific incarnation of the evil Queen and Kol is another well developed character who is forced to make an immoral decision to save his kingdom from destruction and death. He knows that hunting Lorelai is wrong and evil, but to has no choice if he is to save Eldr.
What makes this tale stand apart from the other recent fairy tale adaptations is that the writing itself is so crisp and strong. It flows with such a well developed plot, that even if you think you know what is coming, it is still fresh when it happens. The dual hearted dragons of Eldr are a terrific version of the Huntsman. His conflict and inner turmoil as his dragon and human self battle for control. Can he really kill the princess when it comes down to it?
Redwine has written an enchanting story, very well plotted with characters that far surpass the confines of the concept of being clones of the original fairy tale. If you had never heard of Snow White you would love this book. It is that good and that strong.
If you think you are tired of the fairy tale redos, take a moment and just enjoy The Shadow Queen.