Review copy was received from Edelweiss. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Series: Crown of Shards #1
Published by Harper Voyager on October 2, 2018
Amazon, Barnes & Noble
The thrilling first novel in the Crown of Shards epic fantasy series combines magic, murder, and adventure when an unlikely member of the royal family suddenly becomes a contender in a clash for the crown . . .
In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.
But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.
Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of combat, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.
But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.
I was happy to join this blog tour from the beginning, as I had been interested the Kill the Queen since I first read the blurb. I’m still happy; it’s a great book! I love the way Evie developed her skills of reading people and knowing their foibles throughout her whole life. With her parents death, she is left adrift and unwanted, she could have been resentful. She does trust her heart to a very few people after those early betrayals.
I could barely put this down as it is a fascinating and thrilling story. Evie grows so much inside and out. While she develops her magic and fighting skills, she comes to appreciate her long instinct of people. The world-building was intriguing with the politics of various kingdoms. While most of our time is spent in Bellona, I’ll be interested to learn more of the other kingdoms, as we know some of their people.
Evie has made a great start in this difficult world, collecting an array of misfits from all over, who relate to her “mutt” self. A few of the villians are predictably selfish and cruel, and in that, a bit cliche. But the vast array of interesting friends and enemies gave the story lovely depth with their interactions. I loved this and can’t wait to see how things progress from here in the Crown of Shards series, with Protect the Prince projected for May 2019.
I walked down several sets of stairs until I reached the bottom level of the palace, buried deep in the mountain’s bedrock. The dungeon, as Isobel called it. This deep underground, I was closer to the river than I was to the sky, and the air felt cool and misty. The fluorestones clustered in the ceiling corners created more shadows than they banished, but I didn’t mind the gloomy quiet, or the eerie echo of my boots on the flagstones. The chilly stillness was a welcome relief after the kitchen’s heat, commotion, and tension.
I stopped in front of a door made of blue, black, and silver shards of stained glass that joined together like puzzle pieces to create a frosted forest. I admired the artistic scene, then banged my knuckles on the door, turned the knob, and stepped inside.
The door opened up into a workshop that was shaped like an eight-pointed star. A table covered with metal cutters, pliers, and stacks of soft polishing cloths took up the center of the circular room, while short, narrow hallways led to eight little nooks of additional space. Unlike the dim hallway outside, several rows of fluorestones were embedded in the low ceiling, all of them blazing with light, as though someone had set miniature suns into the dark granite.
The light flooded the entire workshop, including the eight nooks with their glass cases full of precious gems and metals tucked into the corners. Each case was sorted by color, from the first holding only the clearest, whitest diamonds and silver sheets to the last boasting midnight onyx stones and the blackest bars of coldiron. Pinks, yellows, reds, greens, purples, blues. Gems and metals in all those colors glittered and gleamed in the other cases, making it seem as though I had stepped inside a jeweled rainbow.
A man perched on a stool at the table, his head bowed, shining the fluorestone lamp clamped to his forehead onto his latest project. Wavy, salt-and-pepper hair puffed out all around the leather band that anchored the light to his head, and his skin was almost the same color as the slivers of polished onyx spread out on the white cloth by his elbow.
The man didn’t raise his head or call out a greeting. Alvis wasn’t big on politeness or protocol. Instead, he peered down through the large, freestanding magnifying glass sitting on the table and used the tweezers in his hand to pluck one of the onyx shards off the cloth. Then he hunched forward and dropped the shard into the appropriate slot on the piece in front of him.
Only when I heard the soft tink of the gem sliding into place did I move away from the door, walk over, and set the bag of plum tarts that Isobel had given me onto the table. Then I leaned over his shoulder and looked through the magnifying glass.
A rose-shaped brooch glittering with pink-diamond petals, emerald leaves, and onyx thorns was anchored to a padded work tray. The magnifying glass let me see every exquisite detail in super-sharp focus, from the heart-shaped diamonds to the needle-thin slivers of onyx to the delicate filigree that had been etched into the gold setting.
“Nice design,” I murmured. “Although all those pink diamonds are a bit much. I would have used plain old rubies.”
“And how many times have I told you that we’re not paid to think?” Alvis grumbled. “We’re paid to design what the client wants, right down to the garishly colored stones.”
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2018 New Release Challenge