Book Review: Witch Queen

I had the pleasure of receiving an ARC copy of Witch Queen, by Christiana Matthews, prior to its publication on April 25, 2022. Since I’m a slow reader, and this is a hefty volume, I only recently finished reading it, but that certainly doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the novel.

Magic Mirrors, Mystery and Murder

Book Cover: Witch Queen

Think you know all the Snow White story? Think again.

Queen Grizel is the only one qualified to train her stepdaughter as a priestess so she can inherit the throne. When the princess goes missing, Grizel is determined to find her, but the king, as well as a group of mysterious dwarves, seem equally determined to stop her. Her only ally is Duncan, the leader of the king’s mercenaries, but even he distrusts her motives.

Grizel’s efforts to convince him that she means her stepdaughter no harm result in a new conflict –  she risks falling in love with Duncan.

Giving into love means losing power and Grizel likes being a queen. She’d like to have it all  – love, freedom and her title – but that may not be possible. Which will she lose? Which will she keep?

Though I did enjoy the book, that’s not to say I liked everything about it, so I’ll start by telling what I didn’t like about it, so I can end this review on a positive note.

What I didn’t like about Witch Queen

A fairy tale retelling? Yes please! What’s not to like about that? I’ll tell you what. It wasn’t really a fairytale retelling, so that was a promise broken. Sure, different elements of the Snow White fairy tale were cleverly woven into this story, but that doesn’t change the facts. This was not a retelling of Snow White.

Too many characters, too soon. Barely into the story, we already met so many characters, that I found it hard to keep track of who was who, let alone why they even were in the story at all. And, probably because we had so many characters to keep up with, not all of them felt well-rounded. This made it hard to connect with them, and when some of them died, I quite honestly didn’t care at all.

Too much description. Though the worldbuilding was impressive, this came at a cost. There was too much description to my taste, which slowed the story down when it really needed to pick up the pace.

What I loved about Witch Queen

Apart from the fact that it was not the fairy tale retelling I expected, I did love the story. The plot was good, we had political intrigue, lots of scheming, violence, and other nasty stuff going on. All the things I love in a story. I loved how Christiana Matthews established connections between our own world and the world in which this story was situated. Loved the tie-ins with Earthly religions and folklore. I also loved how she cleverly wove the elements of the original Snow White tale into her story, along with some sneaky references to other fairy tales.

Like I mentioned, the worldbuilding was truly impressive. We get a very detailed view of what Grizel’s world looks like, of its history, its religions, and its people.

And finally, the prose. I’ll admit it. I’m a total sucker for good prose, and the teasers I’d already read lured me into Christiana’s net. Her prose is to die for! Beautiful, elegant, lyrical prose. That’s what kept me reading, even during the slower parts. I wanted to savour all that wonderful prose.

The Verdict

Four well-deserved stars.

If you’re a fan of dark stories, impressive worldbuilding, and captivating prose, you need to read Witch Queen. You won’t be disappointed.

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