I never thought I was a fan of retellings, and then I got into fairy tale reimaginings. Those I like. A lot. I especially enjoy anything that imagines the story from the villain’s point of view. The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter fits that bill perfectly.
In The Evil Queen, Ms. Showalter envisions a world in which the fairy tale characters know their stories but don’t know which role they play in those stories. While the characters toss around words like prophecy and fate, they soon realize that choice plays a much more important role than any preset prophecy can predict.
All this means is that characters like Everly, convinced she is the Evil Queen, get a chance to fight their supposed destiny and achieve a happily-ever-after. It is this fight that makes Everly such a compelling character. Yes, she has a tendency to enjoy violence and want revenge against those who wrong her loved ones, but it is her fierce loyalty and devotion to those loved ones that sets her apart from everyone else. When everything she does is fighting to save the life of her twin sister, it makes it difficult to fault her decisions.
Plus, Everly is just so darn likable. She agonizes over the possibility that she is the Evil Queen and dreads the possibility. Yet, when faced with choices that mean potentially becoming the villain, she does not hesitate to make those choices if it means saving her sister. Her choices are always altruistic. She fights her growing attraction to Roth because it would distract her from her mission to save her family. Similarly, she fights her powers because she does not want to drain others and potentially kill them. In many cases, it would be so easy to make the selfish choice of love and self-protection, but she doesn’t do so time and again.
While The Evil Queen does have a sequel, I love how this story ends, so much so that I have no desire to read the sequel. It may be open-ended, but it is so in a good way, where you know that Everly will find a way to get her happily-ever-after now that she knows the secrets of the prophecies. You don’t need to read about the pending battles between her and a certain Snow White-type character to know that they are going to be messy and complicated but successful in the long run. The Evil Queen is a satisfying retelling of the Snow White tale in which evil means something a bit different.