Book Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Posted October 19, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Genres: YA, Fantasy
on October 2, 2018
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Killer Frost, Black Widow, The Spider's Trap, Dark Heart of Magic, Bitter Bite, Unraveled, "Nice Guys Bite", Bright Blaze of Magic, Snared, "Winter's Web", Last Strand, Sharpest Sting, "Unwanted"

First in the Crown of Shards fantasy series for Young Adult readers and revolving around an orphaned royal.

My Take

It’s obvious. It’s childish. It’s full of obvious tropes — Estep went really wild with making almost all of the characters wickedly mean and none of these people come forward with what they know or what they had known. As for Evie and her not coming forward after the massacre…oy, way too irritating for words.

It’s a world of magics in a mish-mash of Cinderella, baking, and a woman who veers from thinking to not thinking. Evie does learn a lot about herself and what she can do with her moves and her magic. Although I don’t know why it took her so long to make that connection to the dance and the fighting. I get the impression that she’s a smart girl, but…again…oy… And I have no reason to stop wondering how stupid Evie might be, especially in that last battle when it takes her forever to realize that, oh, maybe she should use her immunity. Jesus, what a lame idiot.

Unfortunately, Estep uses first person protagonist point-of-view, so we get to hear Evie whine and whine and whine…and whine. Jesus. I think Evie whined so much simply so that Estep could fill out those pages.

Mutt? Really? Yep, it’s a convenient putdown of a label, but I’m not getting the connection with the other levels of magic users. As a person, a mutt is stupid or incompetent. In an animal, it’s a critter of doubtful pedigree. And I don’t see how either definition suits Estep’s use of the word.

Evie’s parents were murdered fifteen years ago, and we don’t get even a bare hint of why or who might’ve done it or why Evie had to come to the palace or why she was passed around to various relatives? Evie doesn’t even speculate as to why? And how is it that Evie has no money? Her parents were both wealthy. Just because someone is murdered doesn’t mean that their properties disappear, so WTF??

As for the other characters in the book? Jesus. Those at the palace (her family! and the servants) are scum, scheming and plotting against everyone. Evie is supposed to pay rent for her teeny room!??

It’s weird. I enjoyed the premise of the story, but I couldn’t feel any pity for the queen. She’s the one who allowed all that nasty in-fighting and scheming that made her family the horrible uncaring people they were. What could she expect but a psychopathic daughter? Paloma’s father thinks his daughter is a monster?

What’s with this about the queen having to marry someone important? Evie’s mother married a miner, yet she was royal. They’re marrying the crown princess who is supposed to rule after her mother off to a third-in-line prince and Vasilia is expected to go live in his country? How is it that Auster is so clueless? Why would Xenia be angry that her time was wasted teaching Evie the dance? I’m sure she got paid for it.

I’m also ticked off because…Winter queen? What’s with this Winter queen stuff? Estep doesn’t provide enough hints to truly intrigue me, and it’s just another way to tick me off. Worse, everything said in Kill the Queen about a Winter queen, suddenly gets turned around on its head near the end. All I can say is WTF??

I did enjoy Serilda’s statement to Evie about her rage, and how it was a benefit to her fighting abilities.

It sure feels as if Estep got lazy on this one. I do appreciate those backward glimpses (set off with italics) that reveal what the great betrayal was by Vasilia. But with all that build-up, I did expect something more.

As for something good to say about the story? Well, it is a tale about true friendship, and I’m very curious to learn if Evie can force people to become decent…and clean up that kingdom. And I did enjoy the opening paragraphs with those luscious descriptions of food that Estep is so good at…she does make my mouth water.

The Story

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 the gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and forgotten until a royal figurehead is needed for minor (and annoying) events.

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.

Forced into hiding to survive, Evie falls in with a gladiator troupe who use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses. Yet these 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.

The Characters

Lady Everleigh “Evie” Saffira Winter Blair is a mutt whose magic is an enhanced sense of smell. Well, that’s what people know about her. They don’t know her other gift. She’s also the last Winter queen and cousin to the queen, not that that grants Evie any grace or privilege, as she works in the kitchens, apprentices to the master jeweler, and attends those functions the other royals don’t want to deal with. Winterwind had been her parents’ estate. Leighton Larimar Winter Blair and Jarl Sancus had been her mother and father.

Seven Spire is…
…the castle that rises up over Savlin, the capital city of the kingdom of Bellona. The castle had originally been a mine, but one of Evie’s ancestors, Ophelia Ruby Winter Blair, a stone master, turned it into a crown jewel. The country is known for its mining, timber, and other industries.

Queen Cordelia Alexandra Summer Blair rules the land. Captain Auster is in charge of her security. Felton is the queen’s personal secretary and an absolute asshole. Crown Princess Vasilia Victoria Summer Blair is her gorgeous daughter, a lightning magier, and one of the best warriors in the country. She’s also a war-mongering selfish bitch. Nox, a Mortan, is her personal guard…and some say he’s much more. Princess Madelena is pregnant and married to Lord Durante, a member of the Floresian royal family.

Carnelia Blair had been Cordelia’s mother while Carnelia’s sister Coralie, had been Evie’s grandmother. Other cousins include Genevieve, Owen, Bria, Finn, Carmen, Sam, Fiona, Jasper, Gwendolyn, Logan, Lila, Devon, Rory, and Ian. Cousin Horatio is the family drunk.

Isobel is a cook master and has been the head baker for some twenty years who has taken Evie to her heart. Alvis is a metalstone master who has been the royal jeweler at Seven Spire for over thirty years; he’s also the craftsmaster to whom Evie was apprenticed. Maeven is the kitchen steward, and you’ll jump if she even looks at you.

Andvari is…
…a kingdom on the border with Bellona. Lord Hans is the ambassador to Bellona. Gemma is the Andvarian king’s granddaughter. Prince Frederich is third in line to the throne.

Morta is…
…a kingdom that wants to take over everything. Think Germany in World Wars I and II.

Unger is…
…a kingdom of shapeshifting ogres who jail anyone who sneaks into their kingdom. Halvar is the leader of the team. Bjarni is his second-in-command. With a sense of humor. Lady Xenia (the widow of a Bellonan lord) taught Evie the Tanzen Freund, a dance of friendship. Castle Asmund has been in her family for generations. The queen of Unger is her cousin.

Vacuna is a kingdom of southern islands.

Gladiators are…

…the warriors of the international sport beloved in every country and includes troupes such as the Scarlet Knights, the Blue Thorns, the Coral Vipers, and so many more. A black ring match is a fight to the death.

The Black Swan troupe is…
…led by Serilda Swanson, a time magier, who had once been one of the queen’s personal guards until she was dismissed. Cho Yamato, a dragon morph and Ryusaman, is Serilda’s second-in-command and another former guard. Lucas “Sully” Sullivan is the troupe’s trainer, magier, and enforcer. Serilda’s top warriors include Paloma, an ogre morph who doesn’t morph, Emilie who is a speed mutt, Aisha, and lots more. Kiko is the baker who stayed behind. Theroux is a cook master in charge of the kitchens.

A gladiator and one of Evie’s ancestors who was both magier and master, Bryn Bellona Winter Blair, had united disparate regions into one kingdom, Bellona, named in her honor. The Blair lineage is of two branches: Winter who were most often masters and Summer who were powerful magiers.

There are four levels of magic: Masters whose magic lets them work with specific objects or elements; magiers seem to have a personal power; morphs are shapeshifters who have a tattoo of what they turn into on their bodies; and, mutts who can’t create anything and usually have only a small spark of power. Bone masters are healers. The long game is played with an eye to the future. Wormroot is a poison that extinguishes a person’s magic and then eats away at their body. There is no cure. A Cardea mirror allows communication with others.

The Cover and Title

The cover is an all-pale gray of a walled, stone-paved road leading up to a stone castle, the bushes snugged up to one side, and an air of abandonment making it seem a ruin. In the foreground, a very shapely Evie in black skin-tight leggings, black boots, and a fitted black, sleeveless T, a brown leather gauntlet tied to her bleeding forearm and carrying a bloody crown, is walking up the road. The most important text is in a sharp, embossed red with black shading: the author’s name at the top and the title taking up the bottom half, as it floats to the right of Evie. A simpler red is in the top info blurb and the sign-off for the testimonial, which is in black along with the series information at the very bottom right.

The title is accurate enough, for someone rises up to Kill the Queen again and again.

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