Synopsis: 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. (Amazon)
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Rating: 5 stars
Falling in love with a story is instinctive for me. Whatever the highs and lows of the book's writing and mechanics might be, I will blindly fall head over heels for it if it touches my heart.
Enter Evie and the plot to Kill the Queen.
The beginning of this novel is doubtful. We spend so much time, over the course of a couple of chapters, moving through the minutiae of Everleigh's day to the point of thinking “Is this really necessary?” You're nearly dulled into listlessly flipping through the pages, figuring this is going to be the pace and tone for the rest of the book.
And then you're thrown smack in the middle of a massacre, the plot explodes into action, and suddenly you can't read fast enough so that you can devour every single little detail. It was an ingenious play.
From that moment on, you rush to catch up with the goings-on in the story. At every twist and turn there's a new spark of excitement that keeps buildling up to Evie's big moment at the close. It's satisfying to see her grow into herself and evolve from the puppet that she had been used as at the start of the novel at court, to her own person while she delves into the world of The Black Swan, the troupe of gladiators who become her family.
Gladiators are something that is so strongly instilled in the culture of Bellona, and I was delighted by the fact that rather than glaze over this, Jennifer Estep took her time to not only bring it to the forefront, but give it the attention that it deserves. The fight sequences are not overly drawn out, but they are very nicely described. These are a people who fight, enjoy it, do it well, and the instruction that Evie receives while in this band of people is very well depicted. As is her growth and talent, something that we witness in the final and blaring encounter between Evie and Vasilia, our story's murderous antagonist.
Through it all we have the sizzling attraction bewteen Sullivan and Evie to deal with. While sometimes this can be a rather distracting thing in a novel that is not mainly romance, it was properly secondary to the plot in this one. It's both great and frustrating, because you want these two to get together,we know that they need to get together, but it never happens. It is so satisfying when an author waits past the first book in a series to get the lead couple (I hope) to come to terms with how they feel—Feyre and Rhysand, am I right? The intensity of the moment is so much more powerful and organic that it makes it well worth the wait.
But past them, the rest characters are a joy to encounter, from the gentle strength in the gladiator Paloma to the sickening machinations of Vasilia, Nox and Maeve. These characters drive a fun and engaging story, even during the moments when you're sitting at the edge of your seat hoping that one of your favorite ones won't be killed off.
It's been a treat to visit the world of Crown of Shards, and I cannot wait to travel to Andvari with this lot and see what else is in store for them.