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Lorelai Diedrich’s Debut

C.J. Redwine’s latest YA novel breaks from her Defiance series and introduces a new heroine

Lorelai Diedrich’s kingdom has been usurped. Luckily for readers, Lorelai has “the courage of a Draconi warrior, the power of a Morcantian mardushka, and the heart of a true princess of Ravenspire.” In The Shadow Queen, C.J. Redwine moves on to new territory, introducing a heroine not connected to her popular Defiance trilogy. Though Lorelai and Defiance’s Rachel Adams are both strong females fighting for what they believe in most, Redwine makes a clean break with this new storyline.

Lorelai, the true heir to the throne of Ravenspire, must remind herself of her destiny as she faces off against her wicked stepmother, Irina. Since Irina murdered Lorelai’s family ten years earlier, she has drained the land of its health to increase her own evil powers. Lorelai has been in hiding in the forest with her faithful guardian, Gabril, and her witty younger brother, Leo.

Taking every opportunity to practice her magic without alerting her stepmother to the fact that she’s still alive, Lorelai must decide: is her magic strong enough to face Irina? How much longer can she wait before she tries to save her kingdom? While attempting to retrieve supplies from a neighboring village, Lorelai encounters a group of young, Draconi (part dragon, part human) warriors from the kingdom of Eldr. Though the two groups are initially suspicious of one another, they soon find that they must sort out their differences and join forces to have a chance to save their respective kingdoms.

Redwine employs the freedom of the genre by crossing narrative lines that most authors don’t get to cross: psychic birds are interjected into the main narrative, telepathic communication skirts the line between points of view, and seemingly unsolvable moments of tension are resolved with magic. Fans of fantasy will enjoy the attacking ogres, human-dragon transformations, and extended magical fight scenes. Young-adult readers will welcome the burgeoning romance between Lorelai, the scrappy, smart, rightful queen; and Kol, a rebellious Draconi prince who has just unexpectedly become king himself. This is not your average teen romance either, owing in part to Kol’s unusual anatomy. (Sorry, friends; no spoilers here.)

Redwine, who is based in Nashville, peppers The Shadow Queen with themes that touch on responsibility, the power of compassion, cooperation with the natural environment, and moving on from difficult experiences, in addition to the suspense and entertaining characters for which the Defiance books are known. As Gabril notes, “The princess could’ve let her grief turn into bitterness, but she turned it into kindness instead. She could’ve let her terror turn into paralysis, but she used it fuel her courage.” These and other inspiring lines—“nothing scares the wicked so much as the realization that someone has chosen not to surrender, even when the cost of defiance is almost too much to bear”—help ground the magical narrative in a recognizable reality.

The dark humor of Lorelai’s connection to her own gyrfalcon relieves narrative tension, and the awkwardness of being able to read the thoughts of her crush, Kol, provides comic relief. A true bildungsroman, The Shadow Queen is sure to be a crowd-pleaser for fans of speculative fiction.