Review: The Shadow Queen

The Shadow Queen - C.J. Redwine

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]

It's been a while I received it, back when it was still an ARC, so I won't comment about formatting and the few typos I found. It happens.

I'd deem it a decent “Snow White” retelling, in that it keeps its main themes (evil queen, princess fleeing in the forest, hunter sent to take her heart and coming back with an animal's heart...) but thankfully veers away from the typical princess-in-distress trope—that one can get boring and tiring when there's nothing else to the princess than “I'm pretty and in distress”. Lorelai had to learn to fend for herself, growing up in exile and always on the move, while also learning responsibility: towards the kingdom she has to reclaim one day, and towards her little brother Leo, whom she was entrusted to protect by her dying father. One may argue that if reclaiming the throne was so important, she'd have done it sooner; however, she was a child at the time, and waiting until she's 17 is more logical than lame. In spite of what Gabril tells her at some point, I don't think you should go fighting when you obviously have no chance of winning: it wouldn't achieve anything in the end, except making you die before your time and ruining your people's hopes. So I'm totally OK with that.

(I was less OK with what prompted Lorelai to more action, that is, one of the characters falling under the enemy's blows. It was a funny character, whom I'd have liked to read more about, and it felt more like a cheap ploy than an appropriate “motivator”. Maybe that's just me.)

So we have Lorelai, Leo and Gabril, and then Kol, Trugg and Jyn, the Draconi (half-human, half-dragons) trying to save their kingdom. To do so, Kol bargains with Irina, the Evil Queen, and that doesn't end well for him. Naive and foolish little prince and princess, thinking they can deceive a deceiver. Ah, but something had to go wrong, right?

As expected (and in a way, it's good, because unsufferable characters who don't grow up are annoying), Lorelai has to take action, accept to use her magic instead of always hiding, and to wage war upon Irina. Her plans weren't terribly twisted, but they weren't the most idiotic ones either, as they mostly made sense: risky, yet calculated, and clearly aimed at weakening the enemy. Lorelai has a strategist's streak, and she doesn't attack anything or anywhere just for the sake of attacking.

I liked that Irina was made more of an evil character whose side of the story is never shown: she had her reasons, and we get a glimpses of them. Unfortunately, I had come to expect more in that regard, and in the end it was never truly “explained”—or, rather, her motives were explained on the surface, but I didn't feel them as tangible, as something she really suffered for. There was jealousy, and her certainty of having been let down by her family, and wanting to reclaim what she saw as her own. There was a dilemma, too, as she had to choose between power and people. However, the latter went too fast, was decided too quickly. It was an important turning point of sorts, and as such, it would've deserved more screen time? I mean, if it's about explaining a villain's motives, might as well go all the way.

The writing was OK, not exceptional. The characters had their good sides, and were brave, but they don't really float above many other characters, they didn't left me with much of an impression. I didn't care about the romance, which was close to insta-love. In spite of a lot of action, it felt somewhat boring at times. Overall it was alright, but nothing original or eye-opening in the end.