RogerBW's Blog

Capture the Crown, Jennifer Estep 10 August 2022

2021 fantasy, first of a trilogy, linked to the earlier Crown of Shards series. Gemma's public image is of a spoiled princess; so nobody expects her to be working undercover. But it seems that she's not the only one.

So it's more than ten years after Crush the King, and the young Princess Gemma has grown up to become a protagonist in her own right. But she's still suppressing massive trauma from the events of the first book in the earlier trilogy, not to mention being terrified of her own magical power.

And of course there's a Hot Guy, though this time round it's the worst possible one – a prince of neighbouring Morta, the perennial bad-guy kingdom of the series. (If you remember him as the rebellious kid from Crown of Shards you may be, as I was, disappointed at how little progress he seems to have made since then.) And Estep's realised that she's better at writing romantic tension than talking about people in a settled relationship, so that's not resolved here.

But for me the prize part of the book has Gemma under a false identity at the Mortan court, poking her nose into the various intersecting plots as each conspiracy waits for one of the others to make a move so that it can step in behind them and pick up the pieces in the name of restoring order. That works well enough that the rest was a disappointment by contrast, though really it's just more of the same: lack of self-confidence, getting into trouble and getting out again.

As before, the world is very shallow – a casual reference to someone's daughter taking longer than usual to get ready for school had me pondering just what sort of schools they could have in this place that a common miner (and a single parent at that) can afford to send her child to one, and I suspect that's more than Estep did. But there's a sense of fun and energy which makes up for many of the problems; Estep is happy to ignore the dead hand of Fantasy Trilogy Tradition when she has a story to tell.

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