Series: Crown of Shards

Joint Review: Crush the King by Jennifer Estep

Posted July 23, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Joint Review: Crush the King by Jennifer EstepReviewer: Holly and Amy
Crush the King by Jennifer Estep
Series: Crown of Shards #3
Also in this series: Kill the Queen, Protect the Prince
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A fierce gladiator queen must face off against her enemies in an epic battle in this next thrilling installment of New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep’s Crown of Shards series—an action-packed adventure full of magic, murderous machinations, courtly intrigue, and pulse-pounding romance.
Queen Everleigh Blair of Bellona has survived the mass murder of the royal family, become a fearsome warrior trained by an elite gladiator troupe, and unleashed her ability to destroy magic. After surviving yet another assassination attempt orchestrated by the conniving king of Morta, Evie has had enough. It’s time to turn the tables and take the fight to her enemies. 
There is no better opportunity to strike than during the Regalia Games, a time when warriors, nobles, and royals from all the kingdoms come together to compete in various sporting events. With the help of her loyal friends, Evie goes on the attack at the Regalia, but things don’t turn out the way she hopes. Soon, she is facing a terrifying new threat, and she will have to dig deep and learn even more about her growing magic if she has any chance of defeating her foes.
Because to secure her throne and ensure her kingdom’s survival, Evie must think like a true Bellonan: she must outsmart and outwit her enemies . . . and crush the king.

In the previous book, Protect the Prince, Everleigh secured her crown as Queen of Bellona by securing a treaty with the Andvari. But she knows this isn’t enough. She can’t become complacent and that fact is immediately brought home by another assassination attempt. This time from a different foe, but the one pulling the strings is the Mortan King. Evie is sick of always being on the defense so she decides she’ll go on the offense at the upcoming Regalia Games.

Ames: All right. June was a weird reading month for us so unfortunately we lost Wena for this review.

Holly, what did you think of Crush the King?

Holly: I really like the world Estep has created. The court intrigue and games interested me, and I definitely admire Evie’s strength. I didn’t like how isolated Evie seemed, even amidst her friends from the Troupe. I was also very disappointed in the romance. You?

Ames: I agree, she came across as very isolated from her people and the romance was definitely on the back-burner. I feel like Sullivan could have had a bigger role without undermining her. All her people were in the backseat.

Holly: One of the things I loved best in the first book was the way her relationship with Sully developed and how her friendships with those in the Black Swan troupe grew and deepened. I feel like we saw less and less of them as the series wore on. By the end of this book, I felt like they added nothing to the story, other than some background noise. I wish we’d see more of them growing as a “family”, which is what it felt like they were becoming in the first book.

Ames: Ok, I liked the world Estep created, but I found the world-building in this book hard to get through. The introduction of the Games and Fortuna just dragged on for me. But once the action started I enjoyed the story more. I love the court games she played with Maximus – not showing her fear, one-upping him any chance she could, thwarting his plans. I like that she had learned enough and was confident enough with herself to pull all that off. The overall arch of her own scheme was very well-done.

Holly: You’re not wrong about the early part of the book being hard to get through. I also didn’t love how she decided she was going to handle the King of Morta at first. I liked how she came to accept that her initial plan wasn’t the best one and went with something that worked better for the person she wanted to be.

Ames: I like how she changed her plan for dealing with the King as well. It played to her strength – she observes and she learns and then she adapts. She doesn’t act until she looks at a problem from all sides.

But once the action started with the games, I enjoyed the story more. I also liked those flashbacks for how she got away after the assassination of her family, when she was a child.

Holly: I enjoyed the story more once the action picked up, too. The flashbacks were great and gave us a lot of insight into how and why she did what she did. I enjoyed that aspect of it.

Ames : Do you think she’s going to write more in this world? I liked the introduction of Leo and how he’s torn by loyalty to his family.

Holly: I swear I remember seeing mention of more from this world, but I can’t remember where I read it. I hope she does. I’d like to see more from Gemma, too.

Ames: I’d love to see Gemma again. And Grimley.

Holly: GRIMLEY! I need a Grimley in my life.

Ames: Ok, what are you grading this book? I have to give it a 3 out of 5. Although I was pleased with Evie’s long game plan when it came to Maeven and how she set out to get the King of Morta, the beginning was hard to get into and I was disappointed in how the secondary characters were side-lined.

Holly: I think I’m going to give it a 3.5 out of 5. I really liked Evie’s strength and the games, but it moved slow in the beginning and I definitely didn’t like how little we saw of the secondary characters. I do hope she continues to write in this world, though.

Final Grades

Ames: 3 out of 5
Holly: 3.5 out of 5

Crown of Shards

three-half-stars


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Joint Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep

Posted June 4, 2020 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Joint Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer EstepReviewer: Ames, Holly and Rowena
Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep
Series: Crown of Shards #2
Also in this series: Kill the Queen, Crush the King
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 451
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Rowena's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Harper Voyager Trade Paperback OriginalMagic, murder, adventure, and romance combine in this second novel in the exciting Crown of Shards saga from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep.

Everleigh Blair might be the new gladiator queen of Bellona, but her problems are far from over.

First, Evie has to deal with a court full of arrogant, demanding nobles, all of whom want to get their greedy hands on her crown. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an assassin tries to kill Evie in her own throne room.

Despite the dangers, Evie goes ahead with a scheduled trip to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari in order to secure a desperately needed alliance. But complicating matters is the stubborn Andvarian king, who wants to punish Evie for the deaths of his countrymen during the Seven Spire massacre.

But dark forces are at work inside the Andvarian palace, and Evie soon realizes that no one is safe. Worse, Evie’s immunity to magic starts acting in strange, unexpected ways, which makes her wonder whether she is truly strong enough to be a Winter Queen.

But Evie’s magic, life, and crown aren’t the only things in danger—so is her heart, thanks to Lucas Sullivan, the Andvarian king’s bastard son and Evie’s . . . well, Evie isn’t quite sure what Sullivan is to her.

Only one thing is certain—protecting a prince might be even harder than killing a queen…

When we left Everleigh (Evie) at the end of Kill the Queen, she had just killed her cousin and taken her place as the Winter Queen of Bellona. She’s still learning her powers and finding her footing, but she knows she has to try to salvage relations with neighboring kingdom Andvari if she’s going to defeat the king of Morta, who orchestrated the murder of her family. Lucas Sullivan, aka Sully, her would-be love interest, is the much beloved bastard son of the Andvari king, and he’s able to secure an invitation for her to visit his father, though he cannot guarantee her safety.

Assassination attempts, political maneuverings and the strange growing connection between Evie and Sully means this is one trip none of them will ever forget.

Holly: We read Kill the Queen together, and I’m glad we’re reading the rest of the series together, too. I really came to admire Evie and the Black Swan troupe in the first book, and I enjoyed them even more here. Evie’s strength really came through and I loved how she put all the nobles in their place.

Rowena: Yes, Evie is really becoming that bad bitch Queen. I mean, the way that she just kept right on slapping her nobles down when they tried to come for her at the beginning was freaking fantastic. I loved that she wasn’t having anyone shenanigans but what really cemented my love for her was the way that she conducted herself while in Andvari. They showed her no kind of love but that didn’t stop her from doing what’s right and protecting those she loved…even when she had to hurt Sully to save everyone.

Ames: I loved Evie’s evolution in this book! And yes, she did become a bad bitch Queen. The way she handled all those snobby nobles was awesome and I reading her thought processes and her realization of how she needs to handle everyone really puts us in her shoes. Also, the growth of her character. In book 1 she was like 7th in line for the throne or something like that so she grew up knowing how the game was played but was never expected to wear the crown. That disbelief and self-doubt she felt when she takes on the crown was so believable and made her growth that much more satisfying.

Rowena: This was such a great book and I read the entire thing in a little over a day. Evie’s adventures kept me invested from beginning to end and that ending? Goodness, that ending was just perfect for me. I cannot wait to read Crush the King with you guys.

Holly: I love how Evie is growing into herself and figuring things out.

My one disappointment with this book is the development of the romance. I am not a fan of the way things were glossed over in the garden and I don’t like that they never had a full conversation about Evie’s actions. I was pretty underwhelmed by the ending. It kind of came out of nowhere for me.

Ames: I agree with Holly, the romance was the weakest part of the story. However, the overall story was really strong so although I would have liked more when Sully and Evie came together, a discussion about her actions foremost, the rest of the story was so awesome it was ok.

Wena, I knew when Everleigh told Sully that story that it was going to be acted out by the end. That was so predictable! LOL I really could have done without that.

Rowena: I liked the way he showed his love for her. It was just the right amount of cheesy to satisfy and I dug that.

Ames: Oh the other thing I found predictable was the villain in Andvari. I liked the misleading clues pointing in one direction but I knew who it was.

Rowena: Yeah, I saw who the villain was pretty early on.

Holly: The villain wasn’t a surprise to me, either, but I did like the author’s effort to misdirect us.

Ames: I loved that we saw some friendly faces in Andvari. Alvis! And the introduction of the gargoyles. I liked Grimley.

strong>Rowena: Grimley, Gemma, and Alvis were great! I loved seeing Everleigh’s reunion with Gemma and Alvis. With as much grief as she was getting at every turn, it was nice to finally see some friendly faces.

Holly: I was so happy when Evie reconnected with Gemma and Alvis. Do you think we’ll see more from Gemma in the future? I hope so. She’s pretty awesome.

Ames: I really hope Gemma gets a story eventually. She was an interesting character. Also, I really like the world-building that Estep has created with this series so I would happily revisit it for other characters.

Rowena: My favorite part of the book was really seeing Everleigh coming into her powers and realize what it meant to be a Winter Queen. Her battle with Maevyn was awesome.

Holly: I agree the best part of the book was seeing Evie come into her powers and realize what it means to truly be Queen.

I can’t wait for you two to read the next book so we can discuss.

Rowena: I’m really looking forward to the next book so it shouldn’t be long before I jump right in.

This was a strong addition to the series and I’m stoked that we’re reading it together. I’m curious to see how Everleigh and her friends take down the King of Morta but I’m so here for it all. Even though the romance was lacking, I still really enjoyed this book so it gets a 4.25 out of 5 stars from me. What about you guys?

Holly: I really love the world-building and how well Evie is handling everything. The romance was pretty weak and I thought it was a bit predicable, but it was still really good. I give it 4 out of 5.

Ames: I’m giving this one a 4 out of 5 as well. Very well done, solid political intrigue, admirable character growth but was a bit of a miss on the romance.

Final Grades

Ames: 4 out of 5
Holly: 4 out of 5
Rowena: 4.25 out of 5

Crown of Shards

four-stars


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Buddy Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Posted October 3, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Buddy Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer EstepReviewer: Ames, Holly, and Rowena
Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Series: Crown of Shards #1
Also in this series: Protect the Prince, Crush the King
Publisher: Harper Collins, Harper Voyager
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 480
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

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.

Kill the Queen is the start of a new fantasy series by Jennifer Estep. Set in a world where magic rules the land, this is a novel full of royal intrigue, evil machinations and in the center, a young girl of royal blood who just wants to be accepted for who she is…

Holly: Rowena chose this book for us, in part because it’s touted as “Gladiator meets Game of Thrones”. I hadn’t read Estep before, but I really loved her writing. So, what did you two think? Did you think it was GoT-esque?

Rowena: First off, nice intro Holly.

You know, I’m not even mad that I chose this book for us to read. I enjoyed it and I did think that the story overall was GoT-esque. I liked all of the royal intrigue and I liked seeing Evie really grow from the girl we first meet and the woman she becomes in the end. I’m mighty curious to see where this series goes so I’m definitely going to be reading the next book in the series. There were times in the beginning when I wanted to strangle Evie for not opening her mouth, for sitting on shit that she shouldn’t, for taking shit from people who were beneath her but all of my frustrations with her fell away when she becomes a gladiator. I really liked her friendship with Paloma and my heart hurt for her after everything with Isobel and her cousins. Yeah, this was a good one.

Ames: This was a good choice, Wena! I’m glad we read this one. I wasn’t slumping but I felt like I was in a contemporary romance rut and nothing was appealing to me. It did take me just a wee bit to get into a fantasy head-space but Evie’s story was engrossing so I had no problem jumping in either. I really enjoyed her character and I can see why she held on to what she did. She learned really fast that you couldn’t trust anyone at court and she held onto that lesson for her life.

Holly: This reminded me a lot of Amanda Bouchett’s Kingmaker Chronicles, but I think Estep did it better. Even though I got frustrated with Evie in the beginning, too, I was still totally engaged in the story. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen and how she was going to deal with it.

Man, I was so sad for Evie when everything happened with Isobel. I wish we’d seen her reunite with Alvis, her mentor.

I really enjoyed watching her growth, too. The way she decided to stand up for herself, and stop hiding, was so great. I was totally cheering for her.

Rowena: Same. I was engaged the entire time that I was reading this book and I was going through a reading slump. You wouldn’t have known it by how fast I read this book, when I finally buckled down and read. Good stuff.

I would have liked to see Evie reunite with Alvis, the jewelry maker. Do you think he knew who and what Evie really was? I hope we find out in the next book.

Holly: I hope we see that in the next book, too. Are you planning to start it right away?

There’s a possibility of a romance. What did you think of that?

Rowena: Possibility of a romance? You mean between Evie and Sully? They better have a romance! Haha.

I’m going to wait a while before starting the next book, closer to the time that the third book comes out. You guys?

Ames: I’m like you Wena, I’m going to wait until closer to book 3 comes out before reading book 2.

I liked Sully’s character and we better see a romance between Evie and Sully. I liked how their relationship developed – the snarkiness at the beginning and how he pushed her, challenged her. And then when the truth comes out about both of them, their identities, I can see why he pushed her away. Book 2 will be interesting to see how Evie gets him to come around.

Holly: Yeah. I mean, it’s barely hinted at here. Obviously we want it to go forward, but were you satisfied with how it turned out here?

I might read the 2nd book now. Tracy read it and said it ends similar to how this one does. It’s not a cliffhanger but it’s open for more.

Ames: I loved the changes that Evie went to after she joined the gladiator troupe. She really got down to who she was a person and she was so strong. I really liked Paloma and how that friendship came about. Evie was just surprising everyone left and right with her talents. I liked that she wowed everyone by baking. LOL

I did feel bad about her losses though. Isobel was one of the only people who were kind to her in the castle. Alvis is a mystery and I hope we see him again.

Ok you guys, what did you think of that rhyme and what it means? I thought it was interesting that Evie just thought it was a children’s song and didn’t mean anything.

Holly: I think it means the Winter Queen will be harder and more badass than all the lame-ass Summer Queens. LMAO. I liked that she won everyone over by baking, too. Not gonna lie, those pies made me hungry.

Rowena: Yeah, I thought it meant that the Winter Queens were way more badass than the Summer Queens. That they were more important, and maybe in the coming books, we’ll find out why. I definitely think there were more Winter Queens than Summer Queens during Halloween in the kingdom.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book and I’d give it 4.25 out of 5 stars, what about you guys?

Holly: I agree. It was an enjoyable book and I’m anxious to see where we go from here. 4.25 out of 5.

Ames: I agree with you both, it’s a 4.25 out of 5. A strong start to a new and interesting series. I can’t wait for book 3 to come out so I can read book 2. You know me, preferring to read my series books closer together. 😛

Final Grades

Ames: 4.25 out of 5
Holly: 4.25 out of 5
Rowena: 4.25 out of 5

Series

four-stars


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