Kill the Queen (A Crown of Shards #1) by Jennifer Estep
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018
Publisher: Harper Voyager
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.
I binged this trilogy back-to-back and I am genuinely sad that it’s over. There seems to be whispers of a potential spin-off series though so I will definitely be keeping me ear to the ground for when those come out. That being said, I would stick with Evie’s story for several more books if I could.
One of my favourite things about this series is that it focuses on Evie and her journey. Yes there are side characters (who are great by the way) and yes there is a hint of romance but that’s not the point and none of it will get in the way of Evie saving Bellona. This book was refreshing for me in the sense that it gave us a lead who grew up knowing she was of the royal family but being so far down the line that it would be near impossible for her to take the throne. This meant that Evie starts out pretty well set with her lot in life and plans to leave the kingdom and live the rest of her life in peace until she gets thrust into a situation she never would have anticipated. It really gave a wonderful starting point for her and it’s a plot point that I don’t see very often.
The inclusion of the importance of gladiators to the Bellonans was also so much fun! I wish that Estep got a bit more gritty with this side of things though because I feel it could have been darker and more visceral to give us more of a payoff with certain outcomes (trying to be vague and avoid spoilers here!). Some of it felt a bit too easy but the overall idea and purpose came through well enough.
Another interesting element to this story are the side characters. There are a very specific few that we tend to always hear from within Evie’s inner circle which seemed like missed opportunities to add new characters and dynamics but we pretty much stick with the same core group. I know this is common in books but for some reason I really made note of it in this one (books and series in particular). It isn’t often that I’m so aware of always hearing from the same people. That being said, I really enjoyed all of the characters that Estep created. I don’t think there was one that I felt was unnecessary or jarringly out of place. And, let’s be honest, Sully was always a treat to hear from.
Overall, this is a story about finding your voice and strength and fighting for the good of the kingdom. Evie’s growth was great to watch unfold and I quickly learned that ‘basic girl fashion’ totally works in a fantasy setting too! Haha seriously though, EVERYONE wears leggings, tunics and boots in this world.