Synopsis: 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 neighbouring 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.
The queen is violent and cruel- she killed her family and her husband, will kill anyone who she suspects of betraying her, and massacres victims in hope of harvesting their remaining years. She takes their hearts (like Kai’s human heart), harvesting their youth. She melds a tree into a woman, magically causing the woman to produce apples, ejecting them through her mouth.
A starving mother kills her children, ending their suffering, and then turns the knife on herself. Lorelai fails to stop her.
Ogres kill Kai’s family. He witnesses the ogre army clashing with the dragons, and the death that ensues.
Sasha (Lorelai’s bird) claws at soldiers’ eyes and wherever she can inflict pain when she protects Lorelai.
There are various battles and fights throughout the book- from magical vines that infect a character (he dies) to statues that come alive and try to pummel characters. From soldiers, mobs and bespelled innocents who attack those who stand against Queen Irina, to a bloodbound dragon, seeking to harvest Lorelai’s heart. Characters die, suffer wounds and are influenced by magic.
There’s dancing (both at Kai’s party and the coronation). The dragons, when shifting, have to do so naked. Lorelai sheds a gown for the trousers and tunic she was wearing underneath, to which a character hints suggestively.
Queen Irina loves Igor- they kiss “wildly” several times, and she remarks that even though he shares her bed on occasion, he doesn’t share her throne. She remembers her admirer’s when she was young, her jealousy when her sister married before she did.
When shifting through Kai’s memories/thoughts, Lorelai sees flashes of him kissing girls, and his want to kiss her. He studies her (she’s beautiful…). They kiss and embrace several times.
Kai has a party, where they drink mead. When called to a meeting with his parents, he ‘has no intention of showing up sober’. His sister tries to sneak into the party and try the mead (he stops her). He remembers his first hangover. His friends joke about drink.
Lorelai fights against the queen, seeking to save her country and save her throne. She steals supplies from the queen, giving food to her people.
Kai rebels against the expectations and authority because his older brother is ‘perfect’. He doesn’t want to be seen as less, so he doesn’t try. (Regret later on).
The worst would be ‘skies!’. Not much else…
Lorelai sends a prayer heavenward or mutters one in desperation. At the coronation inside of the cathedral, there’s a head priest. (No deity is specified.)
Overall feel: It’s definitely a darker retelling of Snow White- no rainbows or butterflies found here. With the jarring scene of a mother killing her own children to end their suffering, the glimpses into the depravity (and the confliction) within the queen’s mind, you experience quite a bit of violence and desperation.
Yet, there is hope in the midst of the darkness- a queen willing to fight for her people, to save them. She’s selfless, willing to aid a neighbouring country when in the midst of her own troubles. Although there’s hope, there’s no surety of the outcome.
“You don’t go into battle because you’re sure of victory. You go into battle because it’s the right thing to do.”