Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Kill the Queen cover image

Where did you get the book: Arc from publisher.

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Release date: out now

Reviewed by Has.

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.

*Blurb taken from Goodreads*

I really enjoyed Jennifer Estep’s UF and YA series and when I heard she was writing a fantasy romance series, my initial reaction was gimme, gimme, gimme.  KILL THE QUEEN was definitely worth reading because not only it has all the hallmarks of Estep’s fast pace and action packed scenes with a hint of romance, the set up of the world filled with gladiators, political intrigue with rival factions and with twists and turns that hooked me from the start.

Everleigh also known as Evie is a member of the royal family although she is lowly ranked in status as well as with magic which is not combat or showy. However Evie has a secret ability  because she senses that she would become a bigger target in the cutthroat world of the court and its political machinations if it was known. She keeps her head down and does the jobs that higher ranked nobles and royal family view as menial and focuses on diplomatic tasks and help running of the palace. But things take a huge turn when a royal event turns into a blood bath of betrayal and murder and Evie’s world collapses into a desire for a thirst for revenge that takes her to a path she never expected.

I was literally hooked from the first page, Evie is an engaging and appealing character, she is an outsider living in a harsh and pitiless court that would tear her down if she left her defences down. She has a few friends but yearns to go back home  and live a much more simpler world, yet when the brutal massacre of the royal family happens from her own cousin in front of her eyes, Evie is in the fight for her life. She is left for dead but in a lot of ways she is reborn with vengeance on her mind and even if it means to become a gladiator to learn new skills and to find a way to stop her cousin who was behind the bloody coup nothing will stop her.

I loved the set up with Evie and her cousin, Vasilla.  The focus of the story is really about two opposing queens which Evie has become the challenger to overthrow her cousin due to her betrayal. And I really enjoyed how Evie evolved from a bored and frustrated minor royal to a vengeful rebel queen who was willing to do anything in her power to save the kingdom and to get back at Vasilla who was her childhood nemesis.

One of the highlights of the book of was the imagery, especially with the action scenes involving the gladiator scenes. It was vibrant, striking and full of action. I really got a sense of of Evie’s determination and grit but also the worldbuilding was so well thought out. The pace also never let up and at times it was a breathless which  left me on the edge of suspense. I also liked that the ‘useless’ skills and abilities that Evie thought she had with dancing, and diplomacy also became useful in unexpected ways and it was also helpful to shape her into the queen that she was fated to be.

The side characters was also fantastic and I really loved her gladiator team and friends who added another colourful layer in a fantastic setting. And while the romance was subtle and very slow burn. I did love the delicious tension that grew between them, there is a hint of forbidden love which looks like that will evolve into a more of a focus in later books.

Overall, KILL THE QUEEN, is an exciting, epic and action packed start of a brilliant fantasy with a heroine that you root for. The world, is vivid and imaginative and I can’t wait for the sequel!


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