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.
In the entertaining first installment of Estep's epic fantasy series, Lady Everleigh Violet Winter Blair, 17th in line for the throne of Bellona, goes from nondescript pawn to significant player in royal intrigue. When Queen Cordelia's daughter, Vasilia, viciously slaughters the queen and most of the royal family in a genuinely horrific scene, Everleigh barely escapes, carrying proof of Vasilia's treachery. Going by Evie, she joins up with the queen's former personal guard, Serilda Swanson, and her gladiatorial troupe, hoping to enlist her help in taking down Vasilia but Serilda has her own plans. Although Evie's time with the troupe does give her some skills, it doesn't transform her into an unstoppable fighting machine; instead, she relies on her unusual immunity to magic and ability to neutralize it in others, along with an enhanced sense of smell. The worldbuilding feels scant, but Estep (the Elemental Assassin series) knows her way around a fight scene (and a dance scene). There are hints of romance and a refreshing focus on female friendship. Readers will want to see brave Evie stop the cruel warmonger Vasilia, and will look forward to the next chapter in her story.
Kill the Queen
Great read and classic finish. Sets up the next book, perfectly.
Well written and very entertaining
My highest accolade is...
The best thing I can say is that I cheered when I saw that book two had been published already.
I picked up a copy of “Kill the Queen” at the 2019 Romance Writers of America conference, along with dozens (okay, 163) other books. I didn’t know what I was getting into - but the bliss of the book is that the lead is slippery as hell; I was sucked in and lost just pages in. Involving, fun, fast, clever. And smart. And well-written.
There IS a romance brewing - but slowly. The book doesn’t follow the romance genre’s patterns (and there is a fantasy sub-genre on the romance pantheon), but I like these people and their motivations enough that I’m entirely pleased to let things simmer for a while.
If I had a criticism, it’s that I find the motivations to be a bit opaque. A woman who has been deliberately assuming protective camouflage in a royal court for 15 years is unlikely (it seems) to suddenly bust out in impressive self-confidence; some of Evie’s actions seemed to defy the life she’d been leading. But as noted, the characters are all so well painted and so appealing that I blurred my eyes and kept reading. Happily.
Now I’ve bought book two and I’m about to slip back into that luscious world. And I already know I’ll soon be cursing that I have to wait for book three. I say: BUY IT, reader!