In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.
But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.
Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.
But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.
Release Date: Out Now
This is the first book in a brand new series by Jennifer Estep which is aimed at an adult audience with an older protagonist. As I read the book, there were definite similarities to the Throne of Glass and Red Queen series. So if you enjoyed either of the two there is a good chance you will enjoy this book too.
Evie is no more than a lesser royal, she lacks the magic that makes her cousin Vasilisa formidable. She may not be magically gifted, but she can make a mean pie. Her character is one who has a surprisingly strong will underneath the acceptance of her role in the Palace. What will come as no surprise to a reader who had read the blurb is that something isn’t quite right in the palace on this day. Evie’s voice is engaging and makes the reader route for her, even through some of her more… stupid decisions. This says a lot about Jennifer’s prose that she is able to create an engaging character – and character arc – for what may seem as initially a fairly dull person.
World-building is sparse but elements are foreshadowed and built around the immediate area around Evie’s location at the time. This makes the epic-fantasy accessible to those who struggle with complicated worlds built around magic. I hope in book two that the mechanics behind the world are explored more, but the lack of this allows for the plot to flow at a reasonable pace.
I felt that the romantic element isn’t thrown down the readers throat. It is built organically through a mutual respect for both parties. In the third arc is does build much faster than expected but personally I didn’t mind it too much as the circumstances were growing more fraught. It is definitely on the slow-burn side with book two promising more interactions between Evie and Lucas as his past catches up with him.
Overall the plot and pace of this book keeps the reader entertained and engaged. The genre isn’t the most accessible to every reader but in this case Jennifer has streamlined the fantasy elements to make it enjoyable and easy to read. There are tropes that are sprinkled throughout which are obvious but the story is enjoyable enough that these, although factoring into the overarching plot, are easily read over rather than being fixated on.