Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book provides a good illustration of that wise old maxim, "Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it." In the first book of this series, Kill the Queen, our protagonist Everleigh Saffira Winter Blair fled from the palace after the massacre of her family and fell in with a gladiator troupe, vowing to wrest the throne from her traitor cousin Vasilia. By the end of the book, she had succeeded in her quest--but the book ended with the intimation that her problems were just beginning.
This book explores those problems, and is all the more interesting to me because of it. Court intrigue is a juicy sub-genre of epic fantasy if done well, and this one is. As this book makes clear, holding the throne is far more difficult than gaining it. Everleigh has to juggle the backstabbing, sneers and power grabs of her nobles, negotiate a treaty with a neighboring country with an eye to defending both countries from an invasion by her enemies, learn the wiles of power and diplomacy, work out how she feels about one Lucas Sullivan, the magier who works for her previous gladiator troupe...oh yeah, and expose a hidden assassin trying to kill her.
Along the way, she learns more about herself and her powers, and just what it means to be a "Winter queen" (hint, it has nothing to do with said powers, and everything to do with the ability to make hard choices and sacrifice her own needs and desires for her people). The book ends with the treaty negotiated and allies gained, and the resolution of her romantic subplot--but the war with Morta is looming ever larger on the horizon. Presumably this will be the focus of the third book.
This isn't deathless literature, but it's an interesting, fast-paced, slightly pulpy epic fantasy. It's a good beach read, I think.
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