Review of Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Kill the Queen
Crown of Shards #1
by Jennifer Estep
Published 2nd October 2018 by Harper Voyager

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.

I received a review copy of Kill the Queen a while back in exchange for an open and honest review. I'm so fracking late for this that its sequel, Protect the Prince, is coming out this coming Tuesday. But I've read this book twice and I'm here and this is a review!
Okay, let’s just this bit right out of the way. Lady Everleigh Saffira Winter Blair. Princess Vasilia Victoria Summer Blair. Queen Cordelia Alexandra Summer Blair. The members of the royal line of the kingdom of Bellona have almost as many names as I do, and just for that, I will don a cheerleading uniform and rah-rah-sis-boom-bah all over the place for this book.

I have five names on my birth certificate, so anybody that writes a protagonist with a long-arsed name gets beaucoup bonus points from me. Like, thank you for seeing us kids with the mile-long names and making us feel blessed.
Everleigh, or Evie as she likes to be called, is the designated “royal substitute”, she’s got the title and the blood but she’s nobody so she gets to do anything and everything in the kingdom of Bellona that requires a royal person to participate, oversee, attend, etc. Luncheon with the commoners? Yep. Soup kitchen opening? Yep. Learn hard-to-master dances and languages for one single, but intrinsic for peace, meeting? Yep. Bake a baker’s dozen friendship pies for the ambassador of a neighbouring country? Yep. And that’s where Kill the Queen actually begins, in the kitchen of Seven Spire with the master chef, Isobel cajoling Evie into baking thirteen cranberry-apple pies for the visiting delegation from Andvari. I have discovered that if a story starts with food and a massacre, I will become its biggest fan.

After surviving the royal massacre thanks to her mutt magic (unbeknownst to her cousin and her cohorts), Everleigh secretly takes refuge within the gladiator troupe of a former Queen's Guard by the name of Serilda Swan (I keep wanting to type 'Swann' because I grew up with Mitchell Swann so if there's a typo ahead, that's why!). And, for the first time in her life, she begins to make friends as Evie the gladiator-in-training. But the simple life she builds for herself isn't meant to be, someone has to save her people from her cruel cousin and Evie's the only living Blair left to do it. I love the reluctant hero angle every single time. Like, "I guess if there's nobody else and the world's going to hell if I don't do it, I'll do it, but I want everybody to know that this wasn't my first choice." I get it, I totally get it.
Reading Kill the Queen was an entertaining experience, from beginning to end. Both times! The banter between Sullivan and Evie kept me laughing and I could almost see those sparks flying. Lady Xenia was a delightfully sour addition that I would love a dance lesson from. Okay, probably not. My dancing skills are probably worse than Evie's were. Evie's new best friend (no name for you, because spoiler) is weird and loyal to the gates of Tartarus and I adore that. You don't need a million okay-ish friends if you have just one friend like that. Also, Evie's cousin, Vasilia, beats the odds and presents as a narcissistic sociopath and I'm totally with Serilda on that one. Judge me. 
Basically, I'm in love with everything about Kill the Queen. The title, the cover, the plot, the banter, the worldbuilding, the mysterious nursery rhyme, the journey Evie takes from a scared and purposefully timid woman to a powerful gladiator like her ancestress, the only thing that could make this book better is if it came with the recipe for Everleigh's cranberry-apple pie. I didn't know about cranberry-apple pies and I've been obsessing over their existence for almost a year now. I finally set in to recreate Evie's pie for myself and do you know how many recipes I dug through to find that nobody in my family, living or dead, has an apple-cranberry pie? So I took to the internet and found Sally's Apple Cranberry Pie! I decided to candy the orange zest and mince it to create "orange crystals" like Evie uses in the book because I've never encountered any such thing in my years of baking. I'm saving this one in my recipe binder, y'all.

Overall, I give Kill the Queen 5 stars and 1 slightly flickering flame for heat, mild heat, but it's there. Ms Estep succeeds in winning my heart by tying the brutality of gladiators and royalty together in a way I haven't seen in a young adult novel before and I cannot wait to read more from her.

Favourite Quotes

Summer queens are fine and fair,
with pretty ribbons and flowers in their hair.

Winter queens are cold and hard,
with frosted crowns made of icy shards.

"You have to live. ... You have to survive, no matter what you have to do, no matter who you have to cheat and hurt and kill, no matter what the cost is to your heart and soul. Do you hear me, Everleigh? You have to live. You have to protect Bellona. Promise me you'll do that." 
"I Promise. ... I promise to protect Bellona until my dying breath."
"The Queen is dead. ...... Long live the Queen."

Jennifer Estep is a New York TimesUSA Today, and international bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.
Jennifer is currently a full-time author. Before that, she worked as a features writer and page designer for a daily newspaper and has ore than 10 years of journalism experience. She's a member of Romance Writers of AmericaScience Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and other writing groups.
Jennifer's books have been featured in CosmopolitanEntertainment WeeklySouthern Living, and a variety of other publications. You can follow her on FacebookGoodreads, and Twitter. You can also sign up for her newsletter to receive updates, book recommendations, recipes, and more.
Jennifer's books are available in print, audio, and e-book formats from a variety of retailers, including the following: AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks A MillioniBooksKoboAudible, and Brilliance Audio.

Alrighty, So this is the end of the review. Manatee got an antibiotic-resistant ear infection when we were swimming so we've been visiting the vet a bit frequently this month and getting his ear vacuumed and antibiotics and special ear wash and my wallet cries. So I didn't do much for my birthday tis past Tuesday. But I wasn't in much of a celebration mood anyway. My friend, Ashley, whom I've known since before I was born (our moms were friends growing up and Ashley and my brother went to the same special needs daycare facility) left this world Sunday morning. I've been rapidly cycling through the stages of grief over and over since I found out on her birthday that she was dying and there was a spiral episode and it got ugly there for a minute. Anyways. My charity to highlight right now is Rett Syndrome Foundation, while Rett Syndrome isn't a part of my world without Ashley, it still exists and it doesn't get much attention because it mostly affects girls. Until next time, dear readers, have a happily ever after.

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