The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire #1) by C.J. Redwine (2016)
Princess Lorelai has been in hiding since her stepmother Irina used her magic to gain control of the kingdom of Ravenspire, but after years of watching Irina destroy the land and people, Lorelai knows it's time to make her move and take back her crown. Irina, though, has enlisted Kol, newly-crowned king of Eldr, to hunt down Lorelai in exchange for her help in defeating the ogres destroying his own kingdom.
I was expecting this story to be a dark retelling of the Snow White tale, but unfortunately it was bland and unoriginal. Lorelai is such a flat character, I found myself not really caring if she succeeded or not. The huntsman aspect of the story is wasted, because Kol allies with Lorelai almost as soon as Irina unleashes him. Many of the plot points felt like they were pulled from other sources, tv shows, and movies. The writing isn't bad, but it is repetitive - how many times can an author use the word "slammed" in one book?
One thing that redeems this book a bit is Irina - I much preferred the chapters from her POV than from Lorelai's. She's wicked in the best ways and just plain more interesting than the other characters. I could have used more of her character! 2.5 stars
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust (2017)
A character-driven retelling of the classic Snow White story. Princess Lynet has always admired her stepmother Mira, but when her father names Lynet as the new queen of the southern territories, the relationship between the two women is fractured.
The story moves back and forth between the points of view of Lynet and Mina, including flashbacks to earlier in Mina's life, allowing the reader to truly get to know each character. Magic is infused in the story through Mina's father, who not only replaced his daughter's dying heart with a glass one, but created Lynet out of snow at her own father's command.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mina's character; she believes she is incapable of loving anything or being loved, yet there are moments in her life that would prove otherwise. I liked that she wasn't the typical villainous stepmother; in fact, I don't think she was really a villain at all. Her relationship with Lynet is complicated, but at the heart of it is love. And as much as this story is about these two women, much can be said for the theme of father-daughter relationships, because both Mina and Lynet are treated so poorly by their controlling fathers.
The story moves extremely slowly and there isn't a lot of action, but those readers looking for a more elevated version of the Snow White tale won't be disappointed. 4 stars