Meet the world of Ravenspire. Ravenspire is the name of the capital of the land, which is ruled by Queen Irina, who took over the throne when she killed the parents of Lorelai and Leo, who were able to escape after their protector Gabril saved them and became their protector for the next nine years. In this land, Irina purposefully makes sure the vegetation in the land is weak to remind all citizens how vulnerable they are and how a strike would only hurt themselves. Lorelai and Leo have been practising ever since to await the day where they can take back the throne, however Lorelai can't cast any spells because Irina would find out by magic tracers in the dirt. Meanwhile, there's a battle to the far east against ogres, and the king and queen are killed in a raid, putting a prince named Kolvanisimir in charge who is kind of unfit, not just because he has dragon powers, but because he was a big-time prankster. Their only hope to defeat the ogres is to try to rationalize with Queen Irina, but at what cost, and at how strong the apple?
My initial response was a 3 out of 4, but I guess I brought it down from the way its story in the end seemed to follow the formula of Snow White in a way that didn’t sit right with me. I know, there is a YA formula these days and there are fairy-tale retellings like Cinder and Dorothy Must Die but I somehow just found both of those much better. But I'll give it this: I watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and I always found Snow White and the hunter who decides not to slay the queen to have more chemistry than Snow White and the prince. This book proves that would've been how the story would've gone if it was invented 80 years later.
But is the book a lot of fun? Actually, yes. I especially loved the way magic is displayed in this Ravenspire universe, the way it casts spells but asks for a special command in old Mardushkan language and then explains the angle the spellcaster wants it to go. That’s sort of the same angle I’m doing for a book I’m currently writing and this book manages to have plenty of instances where it has a lot of fun with its magic spells. There are growing vines, apples that...well, I won't spoil it, power greed that someone reminiscent of the Snow White queen would do. Kol and his two friends are able to change to dragons because they have two hearts, one dragon, one human, and C.J. Redwine manages to make good imagery of them transforming. There's also a character with rage that's not understandable. A lot of books these days have hearts that are hurting, confused, brainwashed, you get the idea, but this is an above average take on it.
There's also a character death in this that doesn't pass by with the characters unscathed from that, which is something I appreciated tremendously. It also warmed me how their protector Gabril turned into a father figure and remained loyal to them. And we get some moments with Irina that aren't all filler. She even has a moment of emotional breakdown I appreciated.
But I think most of this book’s problems personally come from the fact this is sort of a standalone. It’s no secret that I feel standalone books, especially YA standalones, have a rushed feeling to them that makes the universe seem a bit bleak. There’s another brand new book called The Wish Granter that retells Rumplestilskin, but apparently none of the original characters will be present. This is an example I told you about in my Asylum review of a book where I sadly rate a book based on what I think of its sequel, which I don't do very often. And I admit, it is kind of unfair to do so. The book also starts perhaps a little too late into Lorelai's story. I found her to be brave but there wasn't much that was special about her. There are also a few too many moments where this book brings up the heart, you know, tapping into the heart of the volcano and the grass and at times it got a little annoying. There are more poetic ways to show control over the environment. And I somehow just found the last few pages to not be as exciting as the rest of the book, even though I think from a storytelling standpoint, they were...I guess it has to do with the standalone problem or something.
I also didn't get much back story from how Irina was able to get away with the slaughtering of Lorelai's parents and be able to reign over all of Ravenspire. Basically, most of my problems with this book wouldn't have been so if this book stopped at page 340 or something that could've promised more. I'm simply a series lover and standalone hater. I'm still recommending The Shadow Queen, though. Don't think I'm not. It has enough to merit a bite.