Thank you NetGalley and Harper Voyager for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Queen Everleigh Blair of Bellona has survived the mass murder of the royal family, become a fearsome warrior trained by an elite gladiator troupe, and unleashed her ability to destroy magic. After surviving yet another assassination attempt orchestrated by the conniving king of Morta, Evie has had enough. It’s time to turn the tables and take the fight to her enemies.
There is no better opportunity to strike than during the Regalia Games, a time when warriors, nobles, and royals from all the kingdoms come together to compete in various sporting events. With the help of her loyal friends, Evie goes on the attack at the Regalia, but things don’t turn out the way she hopes. Soon, she is facing a terrifying new threat, and she will have to dig deep and learn even more about her growing magic if she has any chance of defeating her foes.
Because to secure her throne and ensure her kingdom’s survival, Evie must think like a true Bellonan: she must outsmart and outwit her enemies . . . and crush the king. (Amazon)
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Rating: 4 stars
The king is dead, long live the queens, and the Crown of Shards series seems to have come to an end. Everleigh has worked, trained, sweated and bled from the moment that her family was slaughtered in Kill the Queen to this point, and the ending was as fitting as it was deserving.
The star of Crush the King, from the moment that he made the first appearance, was Maximus. Despite the overdone name that he has been granted, he is a delightful villain and exerts the power and cruelty that befits his personality and station beautifully. Maximus drove the story, and even though he is the “bad guy,” he is a pleasure to read. I was almost rooting for him to win that last battle against Evie, and while her success was crucial, I believe that it was far too easily obtained. To go against a powerful magier—no matter how he gained his power—that has been on the throne for years and beat him, when you have been using your own power to its full potential and training in battle tactics for a mere few months was not quite believable. The thing that saved this face-off resulting in Maximus' death was Maeven's interference and the fact that his end came at her hand.
Living through the Regalia Games was as entertaining as I imagined it would be. The story certainly brought to life the energy that everyone seemed to be exuding throughout the three days of celebration. It was, as usual, great to be in the forefront for the gladiator games that were presented—Paloma shone in her fight against Mercer, and her defeat of him was one of my favorite scenes, overall, from the three books—and interesting to visit the island of Fortuna.
And the many assassination attempts on Evie and her friends did not disappoint. As usual, they were as fun to behold as they have been this whole time, with the pinnacle of them all being Evie's stand-off on the bridge leading to/from Bellona against the Bastard Brigade. You always know that she is going to win these moments—which is relieving, and a let down, because sometimes a loss introduces even more possibility for drama that is not overdone but rather interesting—but they are still diverting.
This book does not feel like the last of the lot, because there is still so much that seems to have been left open-ended. From the possibility that Maeven will come after Evie again, to Seraphine DiLucri's mysterious interest in the Bellonan queen, to the fact that I am almost positive Leonidas is the boy that Gemma came across when she, Xenia and Alvis were escaping Bellona for Andvari in the first book and how that might pop back up in the future for the benefit or detriment of the two kingdoms. Especially considering how powerful both youths have the potential of being. I don't know if more story will be introduced at a later date, but a spin-off would be fitting.
Everleigh's character concluded itself to be a good queen for Bellona in the end after all, and the maturing that she has gone through has come at a steady pace. It fits well. However, the abilities that she has attained sometimes don't come across too clearly in action, and her incessant descriptions of scents as relating to emotions—as well as her mention of playing “the long game”--are repeated so many times that they are tiring. And distracting. At this point, I look at anything scented “vanilla” and the name of Sullivan pops into my mind automatically.
Speaking of, her relationship with Sullivan, although sparkling at the beginning, oddly enough diluted for me by the time that we arrived at this book. I am glad that they're together, but reading their scenes was more so settling rather than satisfying. I do think that the cast of secondary characters as a whole—namely the tight group of friends on her side—deserve(d) more attention and more life of their own. It left me wanting, and it's another reason why this book seems like it has paused in the middle of this series rather than at its end.
I still flew through this book, and there was plenty of action to keep one glued to its pages. It's a captivating installment, and while it may not seem as the last even if that's the impression that it means to give, it certainly closed on a good note.