Release Day Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep

Protect the Prince (A Crown of Shards book 2) by Jennifer Estep
Adult High Fantasy romance released by Harper Voyager on July 2, 2019

Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep book coverMagic, murder, adventure, and romance combine in this second novel in the exciting Crown of Shardssaga from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep.

Everleigh Blair might be the new gladiator queen of Bellona, but her problems are far from over.

First, Evie has to deal with a court full of arrogant, demanding nobles, all of whom want to get their greedy hands on her crown. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an assassin tries to kill Evie in her own throne room.

Despite the dangers, Evie goes ahead with a scheduled trip to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari in order to secure a desperately needed alliance. But complicating matters is the stubborn Andvarian king, who wants to punish Evie for the deaths of his countrymen during the Seven Spire massacre.

Dark forces are also at work inside the Andvarian palace, and Evie soon realizes that no one is safe. Worse, her immunity to magic starts acting in strange, unexpected ways, which makes Evie wonder whether she is truly strong enough to be a Winter Queen.

Evie’s magic, life, and crown aren’t the only things in danger—so is her heart, thanks to Lucas Sullivan, the Andvarian king’s bastard son and Evie’s … well, Evie isn’t quite sure what Sullivan is to her.

Only one thing is certain—protecting a prince might be even harder than killing a queen…

I loved Kill the Queen, book 1 in this series and Protect the Prince is more of the same. Jennifer Estep has created a great world and I love the tone and structure of these books. To me the pacing and content are like action movies in book form and I just want roll around in them for days. There’s two royal courts, a little road trip, political machinations abound, skulking through secret passage ways, sleuthing to find spies and assassins, magic battles, and romance?! The best things ever all in one package in my opinion! Perfect summer reading.

There’s a lot happening in this story. Protect the Prince picks up a few months after Kill the Queen. Everleigh aka Evie is queen of Bellona and working to firm up her standing with the nobles. She needs to ally Bellona with other kingdoms to defeat the kingdom behind the assassination of the royal family and attempts to kill her. She also needs to mend relations with the kingdom of Andvari since her cousin (the evil queen from Kill the Queen) killed and threatened members of their royal court. Thus commences the road trip and journey to the Andvarian royal court.

In Kill the Queen, I think Evie had to grow to get to the place where she felt strong enough to fight for the people of Bellona and challenge the evil queen. In Protect the Prince, she’s struggling with imposter syndrome in a big way on top of just “regular” court intrigue like assassination attempts and nobles wanting to align with her by marrying her to their sons or grandsons. I appreciate how real Evie’s self-doubt is portrayed. She has to convince herself she’s powerful enough and worthy enough to be queen even if she wasn’t ever supposed to be.

She’s also missing information about her magic and Winter family line and continually gets rebuffed when she asks those who know—“you have to figure it out yourself”. Ugh. I’d be burning stuff down after hearing that a couple times. And I call BS on the whole “you have to learn your magic on your own”. In this book she’s learning more about her magic, mostly by accident which I think is unnecessarily dangerous when others close to her seem to have an idea what she’s capable of but won’t tell her.

I also like that Evie gets angry and makes the sacrifice play instead of the menfolk. She does what needs to be done for her kingdom and to protect those around her (including a couple princes), knowing it ruins any chance she may have with the person she loves and she expects to not survive. My experience with fantasy novels (and action movies) is it’s usually the dude getting angry, the dude pushing away the one he loves so she’ll be safe. I appreciate it’s Evie doing it here. She’s making things happen, not waiting to react to events or letting things happen to her and playing a long game of her own.

A very enjoyable read for me. I’ve been looking forward to this book since I finished Kill the Queen last year. No gladiators battling it out in the fighting ring—the battles are in ballrooms and palace gardens! But I think the third book will make up for it if I am reading the references right. And Protect the Prince has gargoyles! Grimley is the best. I want more gargoyles! And more Serilda, Cho, and Lucas. There is progress on the romance front especially in Part 3 (the final third of the book) but it’s not the main catalyst for the progression of this story. HFN for sure with probable HEA. I can’t wait for book 3, Crush the King!

I do recommend reading Kill the Queen before Protect the Prince. Protect the Prince doesn’t really rehash the events or history of the characters from Kill the Queen so I think you’ll lack context or depth of understanding related to some of the things in Protect the Prince. And Kill the Queen is also awesome so you should read it anyway!

Grade: A-

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

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