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’ve been a fan of Jennifer Estep since the first Elemental Assassin book came out back in 2010. When I heard she was writing a straight-up fantasy series I was literally clamoring for it. I could not wait to get my hands on it. Life got in the way a bit and I ended up reading this a lot later than I’d initially intended. Lucky for me that means that book 2 is already out.
Crown of Shards takes place in an interesting fantasy world. There’s magic, shifters (known as morphs), and royalty. There are battle queens, and intrigue, and wars for the throne. I’m hoping to explore more, deeper, and further into the world in the future books. It’s worthy of it. I can’t wait to see what the next books bring these characters and how they deal with it.
Speaking of characters – Evie is the one that I want to talk about most. I really enjoyed her. She’s pretty no-nonsense, kick-ass, and determined. But she doesn’t shove it in everyone’s face either. She just takes care of business, because she knows that she needs to – for herself. I love that. That she made the decision on who she was, and she’s stuck to that. Regardless of how hard it may make her path. And her decisions and choices do sometimes make her path harder. Thankfully, she’s never stupid. She thinks, is cautious, and doesn’t trust easily. I love all of this. I need more heroines like her.
And this is really her story. Regardless of the world, or the many other characters peppering the story and helping (or hindering) her progress, it’s Evie’s story. This is something I love. And I appreciate that the romance isn’t over-developed here. The potential is there, but not deeply explored. Because Evie’s nature doesn’t allow her trust easily, so it’s not like we’re going to get deep, meaningful relationship building between the two of them. But I hope for it. Yes, I do.
There are a handful of other characters that I can’t wait to see again, too.
I won’t give anymore of the plot away, which the blurb summarizes well. I did really enjoy the story and how Evie grew into her own skin. She always knew who she was, but the events make her more firmly herself. I love that.
Now, excuse me while I go try to beg for a review copy of the second book, Protect the Prince, due out October 2019.