I took a break from reading in July, hoping that the interest would return after a few weeks away from it. C.J Redwine’s The Shadow Queen has been in my TBR-pile for some time now and I choose it in the hopes that it would bring me out of my slump. It’s a fairy tale retelling of Snow White and a young adult fantasy, so I thought it would be a fun and light read. However, it took me several weeks of reading before I finally finished it and came to the sad conclusion that this book is neither fun nor a light read.
Lorelai is the crown princess of Ravenspire but after her mother dies, her father marries her aunt and said aunt kills the king, Lorelai is left to flee the castle along with her younger brother and a palace guard named Gabril. For nine years, Lorelai lives as a fugitive, training her magical abilities in the hopes of one day being stronger than her powerful aunt and reclaim her throne. The road back to the capital and the throne is long and Lorelai has a perfect plan in place. However, in a neighbouring country, the king, queen and crown prince of Eldr dies only for the younger prince Kol to take the throne. Eldr is attacked by ogres and the only way for Kol to save his country is to seek help in Ravenspire and their queen. She can stop the ogres with her magic and she only askes for one thing in return. For Kol to find the long-lost princess and kill her.
This is your typical young adult fantasy. You’ve got the warrior heroine in Lorelai, who is equally smart and strong, both with her magic and as a fighter. She is, of course, beautiful as well. Kol lives in the shadow of his older brother and acts out in a way to get attention. Despite this he is smart and capable and shoulders the responsibility of being king and doing everything he needs to save his country. He is, of course, very handsome as well. Irina, Lorelai’s aunt, is evil, smart and full of vengeance. A ruthless killer, yet she has a lover to show that she, too, has a softer side. Leo is Lorelai’s younger brother; intelligent, light-hearted and funny which makes him the perfect comical side-kick. Gabril the palace guard is naturally a father figure for both Lorelai and Leo, strong and hard, but wise and kind as well. Kol have two close friends and a sister, all of which plays very minor roles in the story.
This all sounds very much like about a dozen YA fantasy novels I’ve read before, if you swap out some names. The story itself isn’t much more original either. Lorelai is praised for being strategical and a real tactic and plans every move she makes with outmost care. Kol is desperate, left an orphan (as is Lorelai, these poor YA-fantasy parents never seem to stand a chance!) and the evil villain is, well, evil. After a somewhat fun, but ultimately annoying beginning, a very important yet unnecessary death happens and I’m left wondering, how is it possible that Lorelai could lose both her parents to Irina and plan to take her down for nine years yet it isn’t until this death that she truly seems to realize how awful Irina is? This death only served to fuel Lorelai forward but in my world, she shouldn’t need it since Irina already killed most of her family, stole her throne, her country and her home and tried to kill Lorelai as well. Do you really need one more reason before getting really angry? Do you?
There is, of course, a love story brewing between Lorelai and Kol but thankfully it’s somewhat slow. It did speed up in the end but at that point I was already so done with the novel that I hardly cared. I feel like there was a lot more the author could’ve done with the romance, but at the same time, that’s what I felt about the rest of the novel as well. The story follows a path I’ve travelled before and offers no surprises at all. The magic is rather boring, with Lorelai yelling a bunch of strange words and having limited options in how to wield her magic. The fights with Irina got boring and I got lost in all the weird things that happened since the author, in my opinion, did a poor job with describing it. The final fight was borderline dull and the epilogue seemed so rushed I couldn’t help to question if even the author was tired of the book at that point. But worst of all was the constant repeating. Every other page I was told what Lorelai was going to do and why. Execute this plan and take down the queen. Do this and fight Irina. Go there and do that and then get to the capital to take back the throne. Like, yes, thank you, I get it. You don’t have to tell me all the time because last time I checked, taking down the queen was the entire plot of the novel. But no, it had to be told again and again because apparently I, as the read, was inclined to forget it between one page and another. If there’s one thing I truly dislike in a novel then it’s when the author constantly repeats something and this book was like a broken record.
The only good thing was that, unlike many novels, that death in the beginning which seemed so unnecessary to me, wasn’t forgotten as the novel moved on. Lorelai kept thinking back on it during the entire story and I liked that. In many books, when a character dies early it’s later forgotten completely, no matter how important said character was to the main character. Not in this case, though, and that’s the only good thing I found in this novel. The romance was lukewarm, Lorelai, despite being praised for being so tactical, rushed into some very important situations without really thinking things through. The characters were weak, the villain boring, the worldbuilding basically nonexciting. All in all, not a very good novel. There are a lot more YA fantasy out there better than The Shadow Queen. Read them instead.