Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Crown of Shards #1
Narrated by Lauren Fortgang
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 very much enjoyed this story. I was just swept away by what was happening to Evie and those around her, while also at key times was very much worried for her. Even though she’s the main character and we know she will survive, the fact of her survival being very likely completely left my mind.
Evie goes through quite a few trials here. First she needs to escape the massacre planned by Vasilia, where Vasilia also kills her own mother. Then, while maybe not as exciting, she needs to get accepted in to the gladiator troupe. This may seem like it would be easy, but the leader of the troupe is not going to accept just anyone, especially when that anyone has no skills coming in to the troupe. There are at least two other noteworthy trials, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
There’s a bit of romance, but it’s very subtle. One may even struggle to call it romance, it’s that subtle. It’s more, looking from afar and admiring or wondering if it’s love and if it’s safe.
Lauren Fortgang did a great job narrating. I enjoyed how she played Evie and her thinking things out in her head. Thinking to herself figuring out what to do when everything around her is falling apart, and her life is in danger. Then later trying to figure out who to trust.
I’m looking forward to starting to Protect the Prince, the next book of this trilogy.