Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Release Day Review: Crush the King by Jennifer Estep

Crush the King (Crown of Shards #3) by Jennifer Estep
Adult high fantasy published by Harper Voyager on March 17, 2020

A fierce gladiator queen must face off against her enemies in an epic battle in this next thrilling installment of New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep’s Crown of Shards series—an action-packed adventure full of magic, murderous machinations, courtly intrigue, and pulse-pounding romance.

Queen Everleigh Blair of Bellona has survived the mass murder of the royal family, become a fearsome warrior trained by an elite gladiator troupe, and unleashed her ability to destroy magic. After surviving yet another assassination attempt orchestrated by the conniving king of Morta, Evie has had enough. It’s time to turn the tables and take the fight to her enemies.

There is no better opportunity to strike than during the Regalia Games, a time when warriors, nobles, and royals from all the kingdoms come together to compete in various sporting events. With the help of her loyal friends, Evie goes on the attack at the Regalia, but things don’t turn out the way she hopes. Soon, she is facing a terrifying new threat, and she will have to dig deep and learn even more about her growing magic if she has any chance of defeating her foes.

Because to secure her throne and ensure her kingdom’s survival, Evie must think like a true Bellonan: she must outsmart and outwit her enemies . . . and crush the king.

I’m a big fan of this series and really enjoyed Crush the King. Not much can take me out of my weeks long Schitt’s Creek fan fiction glom right now but this book did! I like the fast-moving story, action sequences, and royal intrigue. It’s hard for me to avoid spoilers for the previous books since this book wraps up some things that have been running through all the books. So proceed with caution if you haven’t read the previous books!

Kill the Queen and Protect the Prince helped build up to many events in Crush the King and I am happy with how story arcs wrapped up here. I’m also intrigued by threads left unresolved and new directions future stories can go. In Crush the King, the Seven Kingdoms are preparing for the big Regalia where the kingdoms compete against each other in various events over several days. Queen Everleigh and her closest friends, advisors, and her consort have plans upon plans—some specific to the Regalia but many are bigger picture and play the long game.

I like the balance of little things and big things that happen in Crush the King. Evie learns a little bit more about what it means to be a Winter Queen. She missteps initially dealing with the big bad, the King of Morta, but quickly redirects to play to her strengths. She gets back in the fighting ring as part of the grand finale of the story. She makes new allies and friends. I love the found family in this series (one of my favorite tropes to read).

There isn’t much romance in this story. Evie is already with her person (see Protect the Prince) and they have a couple private moments. Then there’s progress? more potential romance? between two characters that’s been building but doesn’t get much time on the page. I really hope we get to see that romance on the page in more books in this world. I need it!

The conclusion to the story is great. Evie finally reveals to everyone what she can do with her magic, defeats the baddest bad guy, and delivers a gratifying blow to her nemesis Maeven. It’s all so cinematic-feeling to me and I love it. Innocents are saved! The heroes win! The enemy is defeated! But also leaves open more stories in this world (yes, please!). And Maeven’s predicament could play out in so many interesting ways!

A great read for me. Quick paced, action packed, cool magic system, chosen family trope, powerful women! So many awesome pieces that work really well for me. Goodreads doesn’t currently list any more books in the series. I’ll keep my fingers crossed! I highly recommend this series for fans of adult fantasy or anyone looking for a fun action read.

Content warnings for harm to children and (magical) animal death if those are things you avoid.

Grade: B+

You can buy a copy here.

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