The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire #1)

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A dark retelling of Snow White, The Shadow Queen hits all the right notes with an exiled (presumed dead) princess, an evil stepmother who drains the land of life, a young prince trying to save his own kingdom, magic, ogres, and DRAGONS. Shape-shifting dragons, at that, with both human and dragon hearts.

Once upon a time, Crown Princess Lorelei of Ravenspire was happy. She had everything she could possibly want and need, a happy home, two loving parents, a precocious younger brother whom she adored, and a beautiful kingdom that she would one day rule with kindness and fairness. But her mother died in a mysterious accident, and her aunt Irina came to take her place in the castle. And in everyone’s heart. Or so it seemed. One day, when Lorelei recognized the evil that lived in the castle and tried to fight it, it all came crashing down. Literally.

Now Lorelei is a fugitive with one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. She has a few weapons at her disposal; one is surprise, as Queen Irina believes her dead, killed in the destruction of the castle that took her father’s life and crown. The other, a magic more powerful than Irina can imagine. Lorelei is a mardushka, a descendent of the magical bloodline in the land of Morcant. She calls upon the power of living hearts to fuel her magic.

I love dragons. I love retellings. I love gorgeous covers. And magic and action and battles and drama and love and evil. And dragons.

Lorelei is a self-rescuing princess. She is good and kind, a kick-ass warrior, and she isn’t going to wait for a prince to sweep along and save her. Author C.J. Redwine doesn’t beat the reader over the head with the princess’s goodness, which I like; she allows the girl’s thoughts and decisions to show her heart.

After an ogre attack in Eldr, Prince Kol has unexpectedly become King. He is the second son, bane of his father’s existence, and Draconi (a dragon shape-shifter), and totally unprepared to lead in a time of war. Thrown into the deep end, he develops from a reckless troublemaker to a young man ready to lead his kingdom.

Secondary characters Gabril, Leo, Trugg, and Jyn, are great additions to the cast. Loyal to their princess and king, they see and nurture the potential of the two young leaders. Irina, a dark mardushka, is evil and cruel, power hungry and jealous. She is so easy to picture as she sweeps through the realm and steals the life-force of her subjects and land.

The inclusion of the map at the beginning is awesome, and a must when dealing with fantasy worlds. It is gorgeous, with so many different influences in the images – Russian, Middle Eastern, European, etc. Beautiful.

The nods to Snow White are imaginative, with the living trees, the rotten black apples enslaving the minds of the Queen’s subjects, and Lorelei attacking the castle with seven dragons beside her, among many others.

This is a fun retelling of a classic fairy tale. Yes, you open the book already knowing the ending, but there are enough twists to keep you turning pages, just to make sure you are right.

The Shadow Queen was published February 16th 2016 by Balzer + Bray.

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