Jennifer Estep has hit it out of the park with Protect The Prince, the follow up to Kill the Queen (see review here). I’m quite upset that I have to wait until March 2020 for the next book in the series to be released. There’s so much to touch on in this review, but let me start off with this:
This is book 2 in a series. If you haven’t read Kill the Queen, you may want to check that out before reading this review. I don’t want to give anything away and spoil your enjoyment of that fabulous book, since there are a lot of unexpected plot twists along the way.
OK, now that I have that out of the way, let’s begin this review!
This book starts out much the way book 1 did: “The day of the first assassination attempt started out like any other.” This immediately grabs my attention, because I know action is coming up right away, but also because I know that there is not just one assassination attempt, but multiple ones that will happen in the book. Which means LOTS of action.
Evie is now queen of Bellona, with her hands full. She’s dealing with all the petty nobles who are making demands of her and trying to get their hands on her crown. On top of that, someone tries to assassinate her. Evie still follows through with her planned trip to Andvari to try and form an alliance. The Andvarian king is stubborn, and wants to punish Evie for what happened during the massacre, and further complicating things are the malevolent forces at work inside the Andvarian palace. Evie’s magic starts acting strangely, and she questions her abilities to function as a queen. Everything around her is in danger, including her heart, as she starts having more feelings for Lucas Sullivan, the bastard son of the Andvarian king, even though she knows they can’t be together. But she knows this is the hardest trial she’s ever faced. Will she be able to live through this?
Jennifer Estep still has her flair for descriptive writing, which she uses to beautifully illustrate the settings in this novel. Here are some of my favorite passages:
“The palace was made of a pale marble that was somewhere between white and gray, and it glowed like an enormous opal in the noon sun. balconies, terraces, and crenellations adorned the palace’s wings and towers, along with large, diamond-shaped windows. Ribbons of hammered gold, silver, and bronze flowed across the stone and curled up any of the steps, walls, and archways, while precious gems added little pops of color here and there, as though they were flowers blooming in the marble and opening up their jeweled petals to the blue sky.”
“The gargoyle was about the size of a large dog, although much thicker and more compact, and far more dangerous. It was made of solid gray stone and had a rough, weathered texture, although its skin seemed strangely flexible. Two horns sprouted up from its forehead, while jagged teeth curved up and out of its mouth. The sharp, daggerlike points on its horns and teeth matched the ones on the black talons that protruded from its paws, and its long tail ended in a single, deadly arrow-shaped stone.”
The same alliteration that I love is back again:
“Resolute Rhea. Smug, smiling Helene.”
She builds an incredibly believable and detailed world combining magic, mythology, and politics, starting with the foundation in book 1 and expanding it in this sequel. It’s a vortex that kept me up reading just one more chapter, which is probably the biggest lie I tell myself regularly. That “one more chapter” line has me reading until 3 or 4 am, until I can no longer see the lines on the page clearly and I reluctantly place my bookmark between the pages so that I can pick up again as soon as I open my eyes. Queen Everleigh’s magical talent, as we learn in Kill the Queen is mainly her highly developed sense of smell, which can pick up not only the faintest of odors (such as poison), but identifies individual emotions with specific scents:
“I knew that jalapeño rage meant only one thing. Someone here wanted to kill me.”
“I drew in a breath, tasting his scent again. Full of minty regret, just like mine was.”
Every single emotion has a scent. And there’s more to this world that just the specific types of magic that each person has. It has it’s own legends and tales, like the story of Bryn Blair, the gladiator who was the first queen of Bellona. This series is rich with these stories, and it is a big part of what makes these books so magical (aside from the actual magic, of course).
Evie is a Winter queen – she’s been trying to figure out exactly what that means. People have been alluding to that all along, and there’s that rhyme that keeps coming up:
“Summer queens are fine and fair, with pretty ribbons and flowers in their hair. Winter queens are cold and hard, with frosted crowns made of icy shards.”
As she learns more about herself, and we learn more about Evie’s distant past, pieces fall into place, and Evie learns about what it means to really be a Winter queen. And it’s so much more than a name. Power doesn’t change Evie one bit. She’s still kind and fair. I love that now that she has all the power, she treats people according to the way that they treated her when she had none. The people who were kind to her receive her favor. The people who were cruel or nasty to her do not, although she isn’t cruel or nasty to them in return, except for one special person who truly does deserve it. I think that speaks a lot about her character, since it could be very easy for her to return their treatment of her, but she chooses to stay true to her true self. Evie has a strong moral code and chooses to do what she feels is right, rather than what others dictate. She also has a witty sense of humor that I appreciate, otherwise this book could easily get too serious. All assassination attempts and no humor makes Evie a dull queen … or something like that, right?
“Sometimes I though that being queen was like trying to wrangle a pond full of baby ducks that were constantly squawking at, swimming circles around, and trying to drown me, all at the same time. Quack, quack, quack.”
Evie often mentions that Bellonans are good at playing the long game, and she’s been practicing for a loooooong time. She’s just starting to show her skill. And man, is she good at this. The book includes the first chapter of the next book, which is already interesting. I’m intrigued, and already squirming, since it isn’t due to be released for another 6 months yet. I have some ideas as to what may be in the works, but whatever the plan is, I’m sure it’ll be amazing and my new favorite book. I’m not sure what I’ll do in the meantime, but I hear that Jennifer Estep has some other books that have some pretty good reviews. I’ll have to check them out. In the meantime, I’m always open to suggestions.
Categories: Book Review