Jennifer Estep’s Kill the Queen is your next must-read fantasy epic


Jennifer Estep’s Kill the Queen is the fierce, feminist kick-off of a great new fantasy series.

Some book descriptions hook you instantly, promising all manner of great things: Compelling characters, a unique setting, or an exciting and unpredictable premise. Jennifer Estep’s Kill the Queen has all of these things, telling the story of a forgotten royal who must become the ultimate warrior in order to avenge a terrible wrong.

In a realm where magical ability determines one’s worth, Everleigh is 17th in line to the throne of Bellona, and largely overlooked thanks to her lack of obvious magic. Forgotten about, even. Until her cousin, the crown princess Vasilia, decides to bring about her reign early by assassinating her mother, the queen, and the rest of the royal family.

Fleeing the massacre, Everleigh (now Evie) finds sanctuary with a gladiator troupe, filled with powerful fighters and interesting characters – some of whom have their own intriguing connections to the dead queen and her family. Evie must ultimately train to become a gladiator herself, in the hopes that she’ll one day be able to face down her bloodthirsty cousin, and save Bellona from impending war.

Billed as a cross between Gladiator and Game of Thrones, Kill the Queen is a sweeping, addictive adventure with a tiny hint of romance that will leave readers clamoring for more of this universe as soon as they reach the last page.

There are many reasons to read this book, particularly for fans of fantasy and strong female characters, but here are three of the most important:

Its fantastic heroine

There’s so much to love about Lady Everleigh Saffira Winter Blair. This is, ostensibly, a story about how a generally pampered young royal learns not only to fight, but to become one of the most successful gladiators there is. But it’s about a lot more than that — Evie must not only learn to wield a sword, but to stand up for herself, fight for what she wants, and build real relationships with others. Evie is brave even when she is frightened, works hard even when she doesn’t want to, and can be incredibly ruthless when she needs to be.

Watching her grow into the best version of herself — not to mention the queen Bellona needs her to be — is deeply satisfying. To be fair, Evie’s character arc isn’t necessarily a groundbreaking one, but Estep still manages to make her story feel fresh. The gladiator setting probably helps with that, but there’s also something about Evie that’s just deeply likeable and easy to root for.

Its plethora of intriguing supporting characters

Kill the Queen does a great job of introducing a wide variety of secondary characters that impact the story besides Evie herself. From the deliciously evil Vasilia, to the mysterious Serilda, to skilled star gladiator Paloma and the shapeshifting Lady Xenia, there are plenty of appealing figures here. And the majority of these people do not exist merely through their relationships with Evie. Instead, they have their own histories, agendas, and grudges at play in the story as well.

Bonus: There’s an obvious romance in this novel — or, at least, you think there will be. But, despite the buckets of romantic tension, Evie and her love interest never even so much as kiss. Instead, Estep focuses on spending the bulk of Kill the Queen on developing Evie as a character, which is both a surprising choice and a tremendously satisfying one. It feels right that we should watch her come into her own before we see her deal with matters of the heart. (Plus, it means the eventual romance in the sequel will be all the better for it.)

The natural way its universe expands

Though Kill the Queen is the first book in a trilogy, the novel wraps up the bulk of its main story by the final page. Yes, there are a few dangling plot threads here and there — adversaries that escape, problems that go unsolved, etc — but, theoretically, you could stop here and still feel pretty satisfied. You won’t want to, though. Because what this book manages to do — stealthily, and in a way you might not notice until you get to the end — is expand Evie’s world in a natural and compelling way.

We come to care about Evie’s relationships with her fellow gladiators and, as we learn more about the other kingdoms that surround Bellona, we become more interested in the world they inhabit. Kill the Queen is, as it should be, largely Evie’s story, but there are so many interesting tidbits about every other character — from Cho to Serilda to Xenia to Sullivan — that you can’t help but want to see more of them. (Not to mention the fact that the novel’s romance barely has any time to get off the ground here.) There’s so much more story that could be told here, so thank goodness sequel Protect the Prince is already slated to arrive in a bookstore near you in 2019.

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Kill the Queen hits shelves today, Oct. 2.