Conquer the Kingdom
- Author: Jennifer Estep
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: March 7, 2023
- Publisher: Harper Voyager
- Series: Gargoyle Queen #3
Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: violence, blood, mention of torture, trauma, murder, mention of death of a parent, gore
Magic reigns, plots abound, and a new love might not conquer all, in this must-read finale to the epic Gargoyle Queen trilogy by international bestselling author Jennifer Estep.
Time is running out for crown princess Gemma Ripley. Despite being a cunning spy and a powerful mind magier, Gemma hasn’t been able to track down the most dangerous enemy her kingdom of Andvari has ever seen. Adding to her worries is the Sword and Shield tournament. With gladiators flocking to the capital city of Glanzen, Gemma can’t tell who is friend–or foe.
Determined to protect Andvari at any cost, Gemma hatches a bold plan, but things aren’t what they seem. Soon, everything she holds dear is being threatened, including her burgeoning relationship with Prince Leonidas Morricone.
With the kingdom she holds dear slipping through her fingers, Gemma will have to conquer her fear and unlock the true secret of her magic–or watch her friends and family die and her beloved Andvari fall . . .
I’ve been a huge fan of Estep’s writing since I stumbled across the first book in the Crown of Shards series, and I was thrilled to see this spin-off series emerge. I’ve avidly followed Gemma’s story, and the previous two books have been building to this huge finale.
Throughout this series, there has been rising tension with the neighboring kingdom of Morta, and Maeven’s oldest son Milo has been set up as the villain all along. However, he’s eluded Gemma’s best efforts. When the story opens, there’s a bounty on Milo’s head, and Gemma is on the hunt. But she’s also due to play a major role in the Sword and Shield Tournament of gladiators that is being held in the capital city of her country, and her attention is divided. So she’s baited a trap that she’s sure Milo can’t resist. Now the big question is, can she catch him and ensure the safety of the people she cares about at the same time?
We also see a new side of Gemma. She’s slowly letting down her walls, and strengthening not just her friendship with Reiko, but her relationship with Leo. And while things are going well with Reiko, getting close to Leo is coming with some obstacles, namely the fact that he’s Mortan, and there’s a long history of bad blood between their kingdoms. While her family is working hard to accept him, the people of her kingdom haven’t exactly been welcoming to him, and she isn’t sure if their relationship can withstand the external pressures placed on them. In addition, we get to see a new side of Maeven, and get to know more about who she is not just as a queen, but as a mother and as a person. I especially enjoyed getting to know more about Delmira, and would love to see more of her in a future book or series. She’s a really intriguing character, and I’m even more curious about her powers after seeing what she can do in this book.
We finally get to see more of the powers that Gemma has. She’s worked really hard to access her powers, and we’ve known that she’s strong, but there was something holding her back in previous books. But when she’s placed in difficult situations, especially when people she cares about are threatened, she’s often able to do more than expected. But I think what I like best about the action scenes is that Gemma doesn’t always win. She gets beaten, she gets her butt handed to her. She feels guilt when she hurts people, even when they deserve it. And she always does her best to ensure that innocent people are protected, even when it means she can’t get to Milo or Wexel, who are likely to regroup and cause more harm. Her first priority is always to protect the people of her kingdom, and that shows how suited she is as a princess.
I really enjoyed her journey in this series, but especially in this book. She shows a lot of growth, both as a person and as a ruler. While I’m going to be really sad to say goodbye to this series, Estep left the door open for more books. There’s one potential loose thread that can be tied up in future books, so it may not be time to say goodbye to this particular set of characters just yet. I can only hope that’s the case, because I really love this world and the people in it.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 14
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