Thursday, June 8, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

Title: The Shadow Queen
Author: C.J. Redwine
Narrator: Khristine Hvam 
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
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Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

In the land of Ravenspire, the evil sorceress Irina rules while the true heirs to the throne, Lorelai and Leo, have been in hiding for years. Lorelai failed in her attempts to stop Irina when she was younger, and she has been plotting to defeat the queen and save her kingdom. Meanwhile, the land of Eldr has been ravaged by ogres, and Prince Kol suddenly finds himself the unwitting ruler of the kingdom. In a time of desperation, he makes a deal with Irina to save his people. He becomes the queen's huntsman, on a mission to retrieve the heart of the crown princess Lorelai.

I first listened to The Shadow Queen at the end of last year, and I rated it three stars. I thought it was enjoyable, but not really anything special. Well, apparently I was not paying very much attention back then, because I just finished listening to it again, and I loved it!

What I loved most about this story was the way that the retelling was handled. I can be really finicky when reading retellings, but I really enjoyed this one. So many of the original Snow White elements were present in the story - poisonous apples, a magical mirror, a huntsman after the princess' heart. But C.J. Redwine was able to keep these original elements while creating a story that was all her own. The world was so unique and the twist on the original fairy tale was seriously intriguing. I found myself totally engrossed in the story and wanting to know more, more, more.

I also really enjoyed the characters in The Shadow Queen. Lorelei and Kol were dynamic and interesting characters that jumped off the page. I was not entirely convinced by the romance between Lorelai and Kol, however. It seemed a bit like the romance happened out of convenience rather than actual attraction to each other. That being said, though, the romance was more enjoyable for me than most. While I wasn't convinced of their attraction to each other, I loved that Lorelai and Kol didn't let the romance get in the way of their mission. Lorelei's problems were not solved because she met a hunky king. Kol was tormented by his desire to protect Lorelai, but his need to save his people and his homeland was always at the forefront of his mind. I always appreciate stories that seem more realistic (or as realistic as magic and dragons can be) and don't have all the characters' problems solved by love.

Ultimately, I am so glad that I decided to take another listen to The Shadow Queen, because I have found a series and an author that I really enjoy. I can't believe I missed how good this book is the first time around. Now I am really excited to continue with the series and I am so glad that I have the sequel sitting on my shelf so I can pick it up immediately. I definitely recommend this one for people who enjoy reading fairy tale retellings, because it maintained the heart of the original Snow White, while simultaneously creating something completely unique and amazing.