Jennifer Estep once again hit all the right notes for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the Crown of Shards trilogy, Kill the Queen and enjoyed Protect the Prince just as much if not more so. We finally obtain some much-needed answers as well as a resolution to a relationship quandary that had me hard-core shipping. Moreover, Evie kicks ass – literally and figuratively. It is next to impossible not to root for her as she maneuvers her way through political machinations and more than one assassination attempt.
One of the best parts of this series is that it does not take itself too seriously. The majority of the characters may be gladiators, capable of killing anyone in cold blood for whatever reason, but there is a levity to each of them that minimizes their fierceness. These brutal warriors crack jokes, obsess about food, and act in a manner that is decidedly un-gladiatorial. Even better, the everyday dress code of queen and commoner alike is a tunic, leggings, and boots. Evie worries about her crown falling off her head more than the fact that pretty much everyone wants her dead. Both stories are chockful of such lighthearted examples that all help offset what should be a very dark story.
This is not to say that Protect the Prince is all fun and games. There are plenty of dark elements to its plot, and it has its moments of murder and mayhem, impossible choices, betrayal, and danger. What allows the story to shine throughout the good and the bloody are Evie’s reactions to each scenario that comes her way. They are honest reactions by a character who is trying to navigate her way through a seemingly impossible future while trying to put a horrific past behind her. She makes plenty of mistakes but learns from them, as does her entourage. The growth of each character is enjoyable and makes the novel that much more rewarding.
Protect the Prince and the Crown of Shards series are excellent examples of high fantasy without the heaviness that frequently surround such stories. They are quick and entertaining reads that give you all the same reactions, power struggles, romances, magic and myth, and battles as stories like the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Game of Thrones series but without a slow and lengthy reading process. It makes for a fantastic summer reading selection.