Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Series: Crown of Shards #1
Published by Harper Voyager on October 2, 2018
Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.
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 war, 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.
Kill the Queen is a wonderful story of good versus evil, with a main protagonist that I loved getting to know and root for. There were many familiar aspects of this story (as I explain below), but they are all the good familiar with characters that are built out enough that you can’t help but care and enjoy the story, embrace those traits that are so common because they are also so much fun to read.
Everleigh (Evie)’s character is great. She is a classic underdog, orphan girl that nobody wants. After the murder of her parents, she went to live amongst her royal relatives. And while she is a member of the family, cousin to the crown Princess, she has an odd mix of experiences. She is trained as a royal would be, and is responsible for meeting with people as a member of the royal family, and yet, she works in the kitchen and has an apprenticeship with the jeweler. It’s like she’s in multiple worlds, but because of her crossing between, doesn’t really seem to fully fit in either of them.
Her nemesis is the crown Princess, who she mistook as a true friend after her parents death. Since I had such a connection with Evie, disliking anyone who betrays her or causes her pain is very, very easy. Toss in just a generally evil and unlikable personality, and yeah, I want to see her go down.
If I am going to be honest, this is one of those books where, quite frankly, nothing really surprised me, but I also didn’t care. This was a book I enjoyed for the familiarity. I could tell early on that no matter the odds, the protagonist was going to prevail, its a book where I could see “twists” coming 100 pages before they were officially revealed, but again, I so Did. Not. Care. This was very much a fun comfort read for me, I embraced the predictable story line and found comfort in the familiarity of it.
While the book may have its share of anachorisms, deux aux machina, not to mention tropes, since care about Evie and her story, I found them more enjoyable rather than overdone.
- Unwanted Orphan Main Character? CHECK
- Orphan character has hidden abilities/magic? CHECK
- Evil villain, who is just purely evil? CHECK
- Forbidden love? CHECK (OK, this one may be more hinted at than anything else, but it really feels like it will be a factor in the series as it progresses. I also have to say I appreciate how there is a definite hint at romance, but its not front and center).
Oh, and did I mention there are gladiators? And women gladiators?? I mean, really, what’s not to love! I also have to briefly mention, while I love the cover, it looks so much like an urban fantasy cover. I do think this story will have great cross over appeal to readers that typically stick with urban fantasy, it is not urban fantasy. I recommend this one and am looking forward to the sequel.