Book Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Posted July 16, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Kill the Queen

Kill the Queen

by Jennifer Estep

Series: Crown of Shards #1
Publisher: Harper Voyager on October 2, 2018
Genre: Fantasy
Target Age Group: Adult
Content Warnings: Blood, Death, Death of Parent, Murder, Slavery, Toxic Friendship, Violence

Rating: ★★★

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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.


The first thing I want to say about Kill the Queen is that although it is marketed as a YA book, it’s definitely an adult book.  The protagonist is 28 and the language and cadence of the book reads like an urban fantasy but without all the lewd content.  I’m not sure why this was marketed as a YA, but it simply… isn’t.

Otherwise I have some mixed feelings.  I think that Kill the Queen is unnecessarily long.  Estep’s writing style is extremely wordy without being elegant.  There are a lot of info drops, but they are usually of irrelevant world building information.  The pace of the book didn’t pick up until halfway through and once it got there, it went too quickly.  The first 200 pages covered the course of a couple days, while the last 250 of Kill the Queen covered a month.

Estep also informs the reader of characters’s feelings and plot point rather than allowing a slow roll for tension and to draw the reader in.  The closest thing to a surprise was Sullivan’s identity, and even then it was only “surprising” because it was hinted at once before in a fairly obvious way.  Because of this directness, it was difficult to get invested in Kill the Queen because there are no mysteries.

The characters are also fairly unmemorable.  They aren’t flat, not completely, but they are a bit like… deflated balloons.  You know they have structure and dimension, but it’s just not showcased to its greatest potential.  The characters are unmemorable.  They’re not bd, they’re just not something special.  For this reason, I found myself indifferent to Evie’s success (despite the very obvious title spoiling the ending) and especially indifferent to the very poorly executed, no-chemistry romance.

In complete contrast to all the rest, I genuinely liked the world.  Other than the fact that magic had no consequences that I could see, the crafting of the world itself was interesting. I liked the different classes of magic and I really like the idea of gems as being vessels of magic.  I liked the history of Bellona and the gladiatorial troupes.  Despite the mediocre writing, I kept thinking that the book would make a great show – the actors would add dimension to the characters and the world itself would be interesting to see but not so magic heavy that it ostracized audiences who don’t particularly care for fantasy.

I’m not sure I would necessarily recommend Kill the Queen, but I also don’t want to push readers away from it.  It was entertaining enough as a whole, and I’m going to read Protect the Prince.  But please understand that this is not a masterpiece and it is highly flawed in many ways.  Still, it was overall entertaining enough that it works for a light read for folks who are more mature readers and enough a touch of fantasy and intrigue.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★
Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★
Writing: ★★ 1/2
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★

3 Star Rating


Kill the Queen Will Be Donated

With only three stars, there’s nothing particularly intriguing about Kill the Queen and I know I won’t read it again.  The edition I have is a bit think, so getting that space back on my shelf will be welcome.

While I intend to read he second book, it will definitely be in audiobook form and borrowed from the library.


Have you read this book or anything by this author?  If so, did you enjoy it?  Tell me all about your experience in the comments!

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