My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As a huge fan of re-tellings, I was excited to pick up and read this book. The Shadow Queen is the tale of Snow White, re-imagined into a vast world populated with not only magic users but dragons. Of all of the versions of this story that I’ve experienced, the Shadow Queen is probably my favourite version. It is always more enjoyable when the heroine is not solely a damsel in distress but is able to save herself when the need arises. The portrayal of a strong female lead is welcome in this story and she is supported by an array of characters.
I really enjoyed how the characters were initially introduced and then developed over the course of the novel. We meet Lorelei (and her brother Leo) as children when their father is still alive and married to his second wife, Irina. You see the love that was once there and then the betrayal that occurs, leading to the princess fleeing the castle. She grows up outside of the palace and is able to learn about her people, become more self-sufficient than she would have been had she lived as a royal and become a stronger person as a result. You understand her motivation and drive to do what is right, even at the cost of herself.
Kol is a royal from another land who always felt like he disappointed his family, but must take on more than he feels he is ready for when he is thrust into a challenging situation. He is initially very immature but quickly grows into the strong leader that his friends already saw him as. You learn just how deeply loyal he is and willing to sacrifice for his people.
The villain was well thought out and not one-dimensional. Queen Irina feels that she must act the way she does and that she deserves the crown. As the elder of two sisters, she was supposed to be married first but that did not happen. She felt betrayed and cheated by her father, her uncle, her sister. No one treated her as she deserved and it made her bitter. She vowed to make the crown hers, whatever the cost. Despite her actions and whether she deserved it, Lorelei’s betrayal just added to the darkening of her heart. Irina thought that Lorelei understood her and when it was clear that she did not, Lorelei also became the enemy. While Irina’s beliefs are not necessarily valid, it was nice to see the series of events that led her to become the person she was in the novel and show her reasons for her horrific actions.
The world was vast and varied, from the dual-hearted people who could change into dragons, to magic wielders and peasants. I wish that we had seen or heard about more of the world, in depth but what we did experience was very well written. You could imagine the castle or villages that our heroes occcupied and traveled through.
Overall, I would recommend this book to young adult/teen readers who enjoy fairytales, re-tellings, fantasy, magic, dragons, strong female heroines, well-developed characters or Snow White. I enjoyed reading this book and can’t wait to see where the series goes, it’s after happily ever after.