RogerBW's Blog

Protect the Prince, Jennifer Estep 29 November 2021

2019 fantasy, second of its trilogy. Everleigh Blair killed the usurper and took the throne of Bellona… but her problems are not even slightly over.

Well, it looks as though we're setting one kingdom to rights per book. This time Evie visits Andvari, where her One True Love is merely the king's bastard son, and everyone seems to be choosing between love and politics in their matches… except the assassins sent by the king of Morta, which I'm guessing will be the third book's kingdom. (There's a map, but it's not much use; it only shows Andvari, and there's only one relevant location in Andvari, the royal palace in the capital. The first book has the general arrangement.)

As with the first book, it's all very predictable. Evie is (mostly) smart and (always) good-hearted, and never forgets to be kind to this world's equivalent of old ladies struggling along the road who will turn out to be good witches later. Emotional lows are balanced by emotional highs. The setting is still that odd mix of undefined and over-detailed. (This time it wasn't the technology but the botany that threw me; they have blackberry sangria… and red-pepper-crusted steak and butternut squash and potatoes and garlic and cinnamon and kiwifruit. So we've got plants spanning from the Americas to China… I mean, sure, it's a fantasy world, and we don't know what climate zones or trade patterns are like. It just seems weirdly specific.)

Perhaps things are a little less exciting than in book one; perhaps the emotional manipulations felt a bit heavy-handed ("I have to pretend to be engaged to your legitimate brother, and I'm not going to tell you it's a pretence because I don't trust you to react convincingly" seems to me as though it could be eased by "so let's also pretend we're having an affair"); perhaps it's because we only really get the one setting, Evie at court in Andvari, rather than having the transition from palace to gladiator life and back. This one didn't grab me the way book one did.

But the writing still works for me, if by getting out of the way and not annoying me with errors more than by soaring heights of prose; and I like the people and feel engaged with their stories.

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Previous in series: Kill the Queen | Series: Crown of Shards | Next in series: Crush the King

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