Kill the Queen (Crown of Shards, #1) by Jennifer Estep - book review

Write on: Fri, 29 Jan 2021 by  in Janelle's Reviews Read 3749

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3.5.5 stars

Blurb: 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.

Kill the Queen started off with a bang. Evie, a twenty-eight year old without magic (or so you think) is the only survivor of a royal massacre by the truly hateful Vasilia, first in line for the throne and determined to plunge her queendom into war. Evie only survives due to immunity, a special ability that makes her immune to the full effects of magic. She finds safety with a troupe of gladiators, led by the former Captain of the Queen's Guard, and finds friendship and belonging where she had never found it before in her previous life. 

This book reads more like YA, since it's written in first person, and Evie's inner dialogue feels a bit young for her age. I wasn't too put off by it, since it makes sense that Evie, having been raised essentially isolated, might be a bit behind in her development. The writing was fluid and fast paced, with little room to breathe. The descriptions weren't too flowery, although I wish the fight scenes had been more descriptive, especially the gladiator duels. Still, I found myself devouring this book in three or four sittings. 

The magic wasn't too unique - elemental magic isn't new. But I did like that Evie, along with her immunity, only had a superior sense of smell. It allows her character to be unique in a setting where magic gives you power. Her smell allows her to read into people's emotions, which was fascinating. She keeps her immunity hidden - a secret that saves her life, yes, but also allows her to skirt the system, stay in the shadows, and eventually, succeed in her mission. 

Yes, she really does need to kill the Queen and save her country from the brink of war. The plot was fun, and I was cheering Evie on as she learned to fight like a gladiator, and think differently about herself and her role in society. Her character development was entirely satisfactory as she grows into courage and self-worth. 

3.5/5 stars on this one. It was a bit too YA for my particular taste, although enjoyable enough that I kept with it. The fight scenes could have been tighter, and there were throwaway scenes that didn't do much to advance the plot. But all in all, I enjoyed it and will most likely pick up the second book in the series.  


By day Janelle is a nurse, mother to two autistic sons, and writer. By night, she's immersed in other worlds. Reading fantasy is her happy place. And drinking wine. And eating tacos. 

Grab her flintlock fantasy series The Rodasia Chronicles, or her epic fantasy series The Steward Saga on Amazon.