Kill the Queen is Book 1 in Jennifer Estep‘s newest series, Crown of Shards. It also happens to be Estep’s debut into the world of mainstream epic fantasy, having typically written in the young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres.
At face value, Kill the Queen doesn’t read like Sanderson, GRRM, or even Terry Brooks. Despite the main character being 28 years old and there being a fairly generous amount of f-bombs, Kill the Queen still very much feels like a YA book.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not complaining! I love YA and am so pleased to say this doesn’t follow the boring slow-burn of typical epic fantasy. Kill the Queen is filled with action, intrigue, and page-turning delight that kept me up way later than I should have been each night.
What makes it feel YA, you ask? It’s written in first person, which is often a theme in YA fantasy. It’s also character-driven, meaning the story is mainly about our heroine, Everleigh, and her promise to herself to never be weak again.
So without dragging it on any further, let’s get on with the review.
Review of Kill the Queen
Let’s talk about first impressions.
Something felt off to me about the cover. It’s not the color, the castle, or that awesome bloody crown. It’s not even the body language of the main character that says “I’m here to kill you.”
The problem, for me anyway, is that the character is wearing a t-shirt and tight leather pants in a medieval epic fantasy world. Perhaps this was Estep’s choice since she normally writes Urban, or maybe it was poor choice on the publisher’s side of things, but I wasn’t the only one to notice.
Several of my members over on YA Fantasy Addicts also voiced a concern about the clothing choice on this cover.
Thankfully, this problem seems to have been mostly corrected for Book 2, Protect the Prince. Everleigh is still wearing tight leather pants, but at least she’s got on a medieval looking bodice and cloak.
Cover aside, this book is AWESOME. Yes, it deserves every last capital in that word.
From the opening pages to the very last, Estep took me on a thrilling journey of loss, heartbreak, and grim determination to overcome evil no matter the consequences.
Our story is about a girl name Everleigh. Don’t ask me to write her full name. It’s long, and I don’t remember it.
The kingdom leadership is divided into Winter Blairs and Summer Blairs. From what I could gather, Blair is the last name and the Winter and Summer aspect simply denotes which line of the family they came under.
Our heroine is a Winter Blair. Though a Summer Blair currently sits on the throne, Everleigh is 17th in line for the throne just the same.
Everleigh’s parents died when she was young, and ever since she’s been a guest in the royal palace treated no better than the common servant. Her life is simple and modest.
All of that changes when the queen’s own daughter kills her to claim the throne. I think it goes without saying that Everleigh escapes and makes it her sole desire to “kill the queen” both as an act of revenge and of justice for her fallen family.
My favorite part: The Characters
Now let’s talk about what I loved about this book.
Evie, as she prefers to be called, is a fantastic hero. I love her so much. She’s weak, but not weak. She’s strong, but she doesn’t know it.
At the start, Evie is a terrible fighter. In fact, the only reason a band of gladiators takes her in is because she can cook. Yet at the same time, she has a tenacity about her that is both compelling and admirable.
This isn’t a story about an overpowered, cocky magic wielder, but rather about a girl who has more power than she realizes all bottled up inside of her just waiting to be awakened.
The supporting cast of characters from the incorrigible shape-shifter, Xenia, to the self-important magier, Sullivan, to the fiercely loyal gladiator, Paloma, are all well-crafted and intriguing.
But best of all is Vasilia–cruel, vicious, conniving Vasilia. This, lady and gents, is what a true villain looks like. Evie and Vasilia used to be best friends, that was into Vasilia discovered she would get little out of a friendship with Evie since she had no magic, no status, and no strength.
From her earliest of years, Vasilia is cold, calculating, and a master plotter that will keep you on your toes throughout the story.
It’s not without faults
But Kill the Queen is not without its faults, and its for this reason that I only awarded it 4 stars out of 5.
I won’t be overly picky, nor abnormally harsh. I loved this book, make no bones about it. But I would be remiss if I didn’t explain fully my rating or set proper expectations for readers.
This is personal preference for sure, but I don’t like “language” in my fantasy books. I can accept it when it seems logical for authenticity, and there were a few moments in this novel where it was appropriate.
But for the majority of it, the only swearing is in the form of “f-bombs” which I feel were dropped simply to give it an “adult” feel as if a few of those sprinkled here and there would accomplish it. These were needless and tasteless in my opinion.
A few other niggles include futuristic terms like teenager or bathroom in this high fantasy setting and inaccuracies such as a person being “cleaved in two with a mace” (A mace is a blunt object).
But perhaps the most grievous of all were the sword fights. Thankfully, there were not that many actual duels in Kill the Queen to warrant much discrepancy. Real fighters don’t lock their blades together, neither one gaining an advantage while they grit their teeth and growl like in the movies. Nor do they “bang” they blades together as they fight.
These are petty of course, but they were obvious enough to this avid fan of epic fantasy that they caused me to cringe.
Despite my minor grievances, I whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone looking for an epic adventure.
I read Kill the Queen in about 3 days. That’s far faster than I typically read a book, which is testament to the ease of reading and the compelling nature of the story.
Kill the Queen is available now on Amazon, or wherever you typically buy books.
Book 2, Protect the Prince, is due out in July of 2019. Harper Voyager was gracious enough to gift me an advanced reader copy of Protect the Prince, so keep an eye out in the next week or two as I’ll have another spoiler-free review ready for you.
Looking for more reviews? You might also like my review of A Threat of Shadows by J.A. Andrews.