Book Review: Crush the King by Jennifer Estep
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 3 of Crown of Shards
Publisher: Harper Voyager (March 17, 2020)
Length: 416 pages
This fun fantasy trilogy has come to an end, and like the previous two novels, this one was a blast. Once more we return to the kingdom of Bellona where Queen Evie continues to fend off threats to her crown. After all the attempted coups and assassination attempts, she has learned a great deal and now must go on the offense instead of waiting for the next attack. She also needs allies, and there is no better opportunity than the upcoming Regalia Games to kill two birds with one stone.
During these games is when dignitaries from all over the world come together to watch their greatest warriors compete in the various events to show off their sporting and fighting skills. Evie makes a note to keep a careful eye on the king of Morta, who has already tried to kill her many times. However, she is also hoping to make some friends and cut a few deals, and to do that she will need to impress the right people. As with all plans though, things don’t go exactly as she wants them to, forcing her to think and act fast on the fly. Although she has her magic to help her, there is still a lot to learn in order to reach her full potential.
Crown of Shards is one of those series you can kick back and relax with, knowing all the books will deliver straightforward entertainment and a good time. Granted, the action has died down ever since our protagonist became queen and her gladiator roots have faded a little into the background, but now we have some extra intrigue to make up for it. Evie doesn’t stop for a second in this book, whether she is scheming behind the scenes or practicing for the dance-off of a lifetime. They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but what to do when your archnemesis and her evil conniving brother are literally in the next camp over plotting your demise? There’s a lot of manipulation to be sure, of Evie trying to stay one step ahead of Maeve and Maximus, as well as some surprising gamechangers.
That said, if I had to nitpick and find one point of criticism, it is that there is barely any suspense or feeling that Evie is ever in any real danger. There’s always her magic to save her, or her incredible foresight has somehow yet again prevented her from certain death. Still, this was what I as alluding to when I said you can truly let your guard down with this book and let it take you on a carefree trope-laden journey where you know everything will turn out just fine—and I do mean that in the best way possible. I don’t deny we’re treading a lot of familiar ground here, but if you’ve been following this series since the beginning, you already know about its penchant for clichés and well-worn plot points. And like me, if you’re still here, you don’t mind.
Besides, just because something’s tropey doesn’t mean it can’t be satisfying. Case in point, I loved how the book ended. Sure, it wasn’t the most unexpected of endings, but it was the right one for this trilogy, and for Evie’s character. I also liked that we had just the slightest touch of romance. A main concern for me after finishing the first book was that the rest of the series would be focusing too much on the love story between Evie and Sullivan, but this was definitely not how things turned out. In fact, of the three books, Crush the King was probably the lightest on romance, which was a good move as it allowed the political intrigue in the story to really shine through. In addition, there was nothing to overshadow all of Evie’s successes which she achieved by herself by employing her own intellect and courage.
So once again I had a great time with a Crown of Shards novel, and I think this would be a great choice for anyone looking for a lighter fantasy series as a counterpoint to some of the darker, more overly-complicated stuff out there. Reaching the end of this trilogy also made me glad that I picked up Kill the Queen to begin with, as it was my very first book by Jennifer Estep. For her first try at an epic fantasy, I thought it was very impressive, and clearly she found an easy, sassy style that worked for herself and for readers. I look forward to her next project, and if we’re lucky, hopefully she’ll continue to explore the genre.