Enter a World of Magic: A Review of The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter
Hello fellow Book Nerds, welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life! As always, my name is Hannah and I am your host on this beautiful journey we’re about to have into the land of Enchantia.
One genre I don’t talk about much is fantasy. Specifically high fantasy. I enjoy watching high fantasy movies, I grew up reading fantasy books, my location on Twitter is set to Narnia; fantasy is ingrained in me despite my lack of fantasy reviews. By the way, make sure you follow the blog, @RHRMLBlog, on Twitter because you’ll get to watch me freak out over books every day of the week instead of just Wednesday.
Back to high fantasy now. After a quick dive into my blog archives, I realized that aside from my This Poison Heart review, I haven't reviewed fantasy since February. 2021 is basically over at this point.
In general, I feel like my fantasy tag is simply underwhelming, but my high fantasy tag in particular is severely lacking in book reviews. High fantasy reads are just not my thing; I much prefer urban fantasy. But today, I am changing that. Today, I will be reviewing a piece of high fantasy. Today I review The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter.
Now let me tell you, this is a proper high fantasy novel. The first thing readers see after the dedication is a map. Map of world equals high fantasy in my mind. Not that you really need it though. The characters tend to stay in one place for long periods of time. We’ll talk more about the world in a little bit, I just wanted to tell all my map lovers out there about the most important part of any high fantasy novel. Now let me give you a synopsis.
As always, a spoiler alert is in order. You have been warned.
As many have already guess at this point, The Evil Queen is a retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But throw the Disney version out of your mind. Throw The Brothers Grimm version out as well. Anything I thought I knew about this fairy tale has been thrown out the window and burned. Anything I thought would happen was totally, completely, two hundred percent wrong.
The only thing I knew for certain was that our point of view character and main protagonist, Everly Morrow, is prophesied to be the Evil Queen. Having grown up in the mortal world with her mother and twin sister Hartly, Everly never knew her true origins. Turns out she and her sister are princesses from an enchanted kingdom! It also turns out that they are destined to play major roles in said kingdom! And, the icing on the cake, they were almost murdered by an evil king right after they were born!
These were things the two were never supposed to know until they were ready. Or ever if their mom had her way. But their mom suffers a tragic accident and the two are whisked away to the realm known as Enchantia. There they meet trolls, sorcerers, witches, seers, kings and queens, princes and princesses, sirens, centaurs, fairies, and countless other mystical beings. But who could they possibly trust? Everyone is friend, and everyone is foe. And Everly is determined not to become the Evil Queen everyone believes her to be.
This book is messy. There are plot holes, typos, static and stereotypical characters, no clear timeline, one of the worst relationships I’ve read in awhile, horrible dialogue; yet I enjoyed the book to some extent. I kept reading because I wanted to see if Everly would turn into the Evil Queen or not. Plus, the stakes of this book are actually pretty steep which genuinely surprised me given the amount of time our main character spends pining for a douchebag of a man.
Since I’ve brought up the romantic male lead, let’s talk characters. We'll start with Prince Charming. Seriously, his name is Prince Roth Charmaine. But he is not charming. He’s cocky, rude, a major fuckboy; you know, the type of character an author creates and thinks people will fall in love with but in reality he’s just bad and you lowkey hope he dies even though you know he won’t. I have nothing else to say when it comes to Prince Charming. -10-out-of-10.
Truthfully, Everly isn’t much better. You see, she’s not like other girls. She has a major obsession with mirrors--but “not in a vain way”—most people and animals hate her, and she needs to be right all the time. Everly is a handful. The Evil Queen was a book I could not read for long stretches of time because Everly gave me a headache. This girl has two settings, and neither of them are calm. The first is: protect her sister from the world around her. And number two is: lusting after the fuckboy who has admitted to wanting to kill those who have the same magic powers as she does.
By the way, Everly is a Sorceress which means she has to take power from other magical beings to use magic. Roth was almost killed by a Sorcerer in his youth. You see now why this relationship is highkey problematic. It’s like when serial killers have groupies; it’s all around problematic. The romance in this book is not the reason I kept reading this book. I really could have done without it.
Characters and their relationships in general were not the reason I kept reading this one. The only other characters worth mentioning are Hartly, Truly, and Farrah. Hartly, as I’ve already mentioned, is Everly’s twin sister. She’s an okay character, she’s very sweet, very likable, and my automatic thought when she was introduced was that she’s the Snow White to her sister’s Evil Queen. She does also have a very good boy named Thor so she gets a bonus point in my book.
Truly is only worth mentioning because she’s Hartly and Everly’s cousin and given that all their names end in “ly” you know I’m going to say that I couldn’t keep them straight in my head. There were many times when I confused Truly with Hartly and vice versa. I have nothing else to say about her.
Finally, there is Farrah. She is Roth’s younger sister, and she works as this book’s villain. I can’t go into too much detail of her villain story without giving much away. But let’s just say, if you sit and think about what I’ve told you so far in this review, her reasoning for being the villain isn’t too hard to guess. Nor is it anything amazing and never before done. She’s just kinda predictable, and nothing special. It’s not a good sign when a reviewer says they could have done without the villain.
This book is not all bad though. Despite the fact that Gena Showalter doesn’t know how teenagers speak, she does create an expansive, detailed world. There are five kingdoms/lands in the world of Enchantia that each have their own look, atmosphere, culture, customs, and landscape. While some of these lands are only heard of and never seen by our main character, some areas aren’t as detailed as other, but they do not blend together on the page.
How this enchanting world works is also very detailed. Since this book is from Everly’s point of view, specifically a first-person POV, readers aren’t clued in to how exactly the magic is performed or how each kingdom is run. Everything that readers learn about these things comes from Everly being told or from her reading a history book. And I do have to give it to Showalter, the history does not feel like exposition dumps. When these details or history come up, they feel natural. On the rare occasion, some of the exposition feels heavy-handed, but those instances are few and far between.
I really think this world is what kept me reading. The Evil Queen hooked me right at the start with its map and prophecy; I’m a sucker for a good prophecy apparently. I just wanted to know what exactly would happen! I wanted to know which characters represented who in the Snow White prophecy! I spent over 500 pages wanting answers! I’m not mad about it. Since the stakes are literally life and death, and there were countless enemies to avoid on every page, the story itself was interesting to read. The writing could have been far better though.
There is a sequel to The Evil Queen that I would be interested in reading. This is not a series that I’m going to rush to finish, I’m not that transfixed by it, but sometime in the future I could see myself returning to Enchantia mainly to see what else the world has in store for readers.
With that, I must bid you all adieu. I shall you all next week with a new review. Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask if you aren’t yet vaccinated, and read some good books for me.