While I loved many elements of The Shadow Queen, the overall reading experience left me stranded in the middle of the road looking for help. I am a huge fan of retellings, spend enough time with me and you’ll find that out, but this one just left me high and dry.
This Snow White Retelling stars Lorelai, the crown princess and most wanted fugitive. She has one mission: kill her stepmother, the wicked Queen, who cares more about power than her subjects. She’s the only one who can stop Irina, her stepmother, as she is the only one with magic. But to do so, she’ll have to use her untrained power to triumph, and she won’t be able to do it alone. In the neighboring kingdom, Eldr, Prince Kol has to save his lands and his family from the magical ogres. They are more clever than they’ve ever been and only magic will be able to stop their invasion. So he turns to the only place he knows with powerful magic, Lorelai’s kingdom and to Irina for help. But he’s made a promise he won’t keep – to hunt Lorelai down and take her heart.
So as you can tell, it’s a Snow White Retelling. In many ways, this retelling moves slower than you would expect, almost leisurely introducing us to the world and these colorful characters within it. What I loved the most was Kol’s character. Don’t get me wrong, give me a good intelligent heroine like Lorelai any day. But her character mold – fiercely loyal and self-sacrificing – I’ve seen before. It’s not that I disliked her by any means, but it didn’t challenge the retelling or present more than this.
Whereas Kol is this intricate complex person, who is also not what he seems. He must fight his inner desire to do good and the power that Irina has over him. This conflict presents itself in a few different ways, but most importantly through a divided heart. In many other respects though, this was a pretty standard retelling. And Kol, to me, was the only magical element I wasn’t expecting.
I guess this all goes back to what you expect a retelling to do. For me, I expect it to give me something more, to present the story even better than before. While Lorelai’s empowerment is fun to watch, I wanted more than just a more complex heroine. When most of the fairy tale girls and women are flat, giving a character a personality shouldn’t be this heroic feat. It is just plain old good writing. So for me, Kol was the element that elevated this retelling.
What I’d Change
I actually would love a whole story dedicated to Kol and his kingdom. But I suppose another aspect I enjoyed was the added depth into Irina’s character. We were able to see her side of the story and her own personal struggles. But at the same time, there are no major surprises that give the retelling something that differentiates it. I listened to this book as an audiobook, and it was entertaining, and would make a good read, but it just wasn’t memorable or outstanding to me.
Similarly to Irina, I did enjoy that Redwine really examines what makes a villain in this story. By making Kol the huntsmen, these two characters that pose a danger to Lorelai are pitted against each other in some ways. Do we have the power to break free of our expectations to forge a new path? Or are we determined to stay on our same path that spells destruction, but does not pose the same fear as new beginnings? At the end we are left with that time old conflict between those who won’t lose everything they love and those who will sacrifice all that they love.
Check out The Shadow Queen on Goodreads.
(If you want to read one of my more favorite re-tellings, check out Girls Made of Snow and Glass)