Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Shadow Queen

The Shadow Queen

C.J. Redwine
Fiction
For ages 13 and up
HarperCollins, 2016   ISBN: 978-0062360243

Nine years ago Lorelie’s mother died and left behind a family broken by grief. Lorelie’s father, the king of Ravenspire, became a “brittle imposter,” and her little brother Leo was “trapped in nightmares.” Then the king of neighboring Morcant suggested that the king of Ravenspire remarry and thus it was that Lorelie’s father married his wife’s sister, Irina. Once again the alliance between the kingdoms of Ravenspire and Morcant would be strong, and hopefully the king of Ravenspire and his children would be able to find happiness.

This is indeed what they did have for a while. The king and Leo smiled again, and Lorelie’s life was almost happy, until she noticed that something about Irina was not quite right. Like her mother and her aunt Irina, Lorelie was born with a strong ability to sense and manipulate magic, and she soon realized that Irina was turning everyone in and around the palace into “glassy-eyed puppets,” sucking their self-will right out of them. Lorelie attempted to break the horrific hold Irinia had on everything and everyone around her. For a brief moment she succeeded, but she was not able to hold off Irina’s power for long and the queen fought back, destroying everything around her in her rage. When the king got his senses back and saw what was going on, he told Lorelie to take her brother and run. Lorelie did not want to leave her helpless father behind but she did as she is told, and as walls of the palace crashed down Lorelie and Leo, in the company of one of the palace guards, left the palace. Irina killed the king and many others and then proclaimed herself queen of Ravenspire, thinking that Lorelie and Leo had died when the palace was damaged.

For nine years Lorelie, Leo, and their guardian, Gabril, have been on the run. Lorelie has been very careful never to use her magic abilities on anything that Irina’s magic might have touched, knowing that if she does so Irina will know that Lorelie is alive. Gabril helps Lorelie find objects that came from foreign lands so that she can practice on them to hone her own magical abilities.

Under Irina’s rule Ravenspire has suffered. The queen has sucked the life out of the very earth, and now the land is starved. Crops have failed and so livestock and people are dying of starvation. The desperate plight of her people, which she has brought upon them, does not stop Irina from demanding that the people of Ravenspire pay their taxes. If you cannot pay you end up in prison.

Lorelie has decided that she will make her move against Irina in eighteen months and in the meantime she, Leo, and Gabril have been traveling around the country, raiding warehouses and robbing treasury wagons. They give what they steal to the starving people in local settlements, hoping to gain their support for Lorelie’s cause. Lorelie is waiting because she wants to be “sure of every contingency,” because she want to be sure “I can succeed.”

Then Lorelie and her companions witness a terrible event. They meet a farm woman who kills her children and then herself. The poor woman is convinced that her children are better off dead because if she does not kill them they will slowly starve; then she ends her own life so that she can join her family in the hereafter. Seeing this appalling loss of hope convinces Lorelie that she cannot wait eighteen months. She must act soon.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr the king’s second son Kol has been expelled for the third and final time from a military academy and he is celebrating while he can. He knows that when his parents and big brother get back from the war front, he will be in big trouble. Drinking with his friends and flirting with girls, Kol does not think about the war that the ogres have been waging on his people, a war that they are slowly losing. He does not think about anything of import until his party is interrupted at dawn; Kol is told that his father, mother and brother were killed at the front. Kol is now the king.

Not long after the funerals and his own coronation, Kol, in his dragon form, flies to the war front with his two friends to see how the war is progressing. He is appalled when he sees that the ogres are using magic, something that they have never done before. The people of Eldr do not have magic of their own and so Kol decides to travel to Ravenspier to ask Queen Irina for her help. He never imagines that the evil queen’s price for her help will force Kol to become something terrible and dangerous.

In this remarkably powerful and thought-provoking retelling of the Snow White story, C. J. Redwine introduces us to two young people who are both, through tragic circumstances, the leaders of their respective countries. Both countries are in dire straits, and the teenagers face terrible enemies who seek their destruction. As they fight to save their people, Lorelie and Kol discover that they both have strengths that they did not know they had, and they have allies to help them, including each other.

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