The Write Perspective: Kill the Queen


Book Description:

Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

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.


Good for people who enjoy: strong female leads, intense sword/magic battle scenes, splash of romance

Review: This book easily pulled me in with the promise of being somewhere between Gladiators and Game of Thrones.  And the author didn’t lie, but now I love the book so much that I don’t like comparisons because it’s a beast to be reckoned with all on its own.  Estep created a wonderful world with its own unique laws to magic.  People are born as magiers, masters, or mutts – a decreasing ability with magic as you go down the list.  Our main character, Lady Everleigh Saffira Winter Blair, is on the “Winter” side of a Summer/Winter strong family bloodline.  When we meet her, she is a mutt through and through, but even then, we know something is up.

For me, a good book starts with the main character.  This sounds simple enough, but think of how many books are ruined by nonsensical characters.  Or ones whose all their problems could be solved if they only communicated.

But Evie didn’t let me down.  She grew up in a world where she was seventeenth in line for the throne.  Her parents were brutally massacred, and she was thrown into the queen’s castle where everyone is only out for themselves, desperate for a chance to win favor with the queen or crown princess (who I’ll get into later).  As someone who has walls up for various reasons, even when I desperately wanted her to say something she didn’t or share a secret she kept to herself, I understood why she didn’t.  Her character arc throughout the book is powerful, but also realistic.  She doesn’t trust people who haven’t earned it.  She’s as desperate for real friendship as she is terrified of it.  The only thing better than the fantastical world already set up by Estep was how character-driven this plot was.

The only character just as important as the hero is the villain.  And boy does this book have a good set of villains.  From the moment I met Vasilia, I wanted her blood.  I chanted the book’s title in my head as a mantra.  Kill the queen.  She’s a common case of someone spoiled rotten their whole life whose impatience and greed are her (and her kingdom’s) downfall.  “Her kingdom” and “her people” are not even close to being synonymous in her mind.  She’s the type of person that Littlefinger from Game of Thrones would love to meet, because she has all the greed and power with none of the mind power.  But instead of Littlefinger, we get Maeven.  Although she’s more in the background, Evie quickly realizes she’s the puppeteer.  Even though she doesn’t have the background with Evie to make us hate her and get the mob mentality for her death, she’s just as easy to want dead as Vasilia.

This book did all the big things right – world building, main characters, character arcs – but what really sealed the deal for me was the minor characters and their subplots.  The Black Swan gladiator troupe gave me multiple characters that I became very invested in.  The romance with Lucas Sullivan, the troupe’s trainer who has a past as complicated as Evie’s.  Splashed in the background giving you intimidate moments but leaving you desperate for more.  Serilda Swanson, owner of the Black Swans and ex-personal guard to the queen who is desperate for any Blair to be on the throne but Vasilia.  Xenia, the ogre dance instructor with an agenda of her own.  Paloma, Black Swan champion and brilliant fighter who has almost just as much reason to have trust issues as Evie.

I could go on and on about this book (and would love to in the comments below).  I can’t say enough times how much I would recommend this book.

Summer queens are fine and fair, with pretty ribbons and flowers in their hair.  Winter queens are cold and hard, with frosted crowns made of icy shards.

Overall Rating: 5 stars



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Write Perspective: The Scorpion Rules


Book Description:

Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.

The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.

Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.

Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed…unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.

Good for people who enjoy: post-apocalyptic, LGBT protagonist, strong female lead, robot versus human

Review: What strikes me about this book is that I didn’t want to like it.  Erin Bow has a unique writing style that at first I didn’t care for, but now it’s one of my favorite things about the book.  Bow writes from the first person and very informally.  I thought it was strange, but every time I put the book down I’d pick it back up five minutes later.  Why?  The book got me thinking.

The main character Greta is someone I truly enjoyed reading about.  She’s a duchess and Crown Princess so she’s strong, but she’s also a Child of Peace and therefore weak.  She’s complex and intelligent and very diplomatic.  Throughout the book you see the world she thinks she knows shattered in front of her all because of a boy, but the way Bow goes about it is so unconventional that you’re on the edge of your seat.

Perhaps one of my favorite exchanges between Greta and the all-powerful robot overload is when she tells him that no, she’s not doing this for the boy she loves – in fact, she’s falling in love with her (female) best friend, Li Da-Xia or “Xie”, the Daughter of the Heavenly Throne. The boy Elian changed her life, not by coming in on a horse to save her, but by coming in shackled in chains to doom her.

The world Bow creates in clear cut and no-nonsense.  If her people go into war, Greta will die.  Her only concern is to do so gracefully and with honor.  In fact, the entire novel starts with one of her lifelong friends being brought to his own death.  Her thoughts?  At least he’d be proud his nation won.  When I think to Greta of that scene, and then the Greta at the end of my book, I’m so overwhelmingly impressed by such a drastic growth arc that felt so natural when reading.

I was brought very quickly into this world ruled by Artificial Intelligence.  It’s the kind of world where when you’re back brought into this one, the ‘real world’, you start thinking.  This world feels a little less real because your mind is so deeply invested in this one created by Bow.

This review is unique in that I don’t want to go more into the book, because somehow I feel like anything I can say would be a spoiler.  All I can say is that I read this book from the library, and it’s so good that I’m now buying the hardcover so that I can read it whenever I like, and you should do the same.


Write Perspective: Caraval



Book Description:

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

Good for people who enjoy: strong female leads, beautiful scenery description, diverse personality group

Review: Where to begin?  The first thing I’d like to point out is how easily it was for my to fall into the rhythm of the world that Stephanie Garber created.  Her opening scene already had be empathetic towards the protagonist, Scarlett, even though I didn’t know too much about her yet.

Then, we’re swept away to the magical world that is Caraval, now paired with the love interest, Julian.  I’ve always been one who loved the dark, mysterious man.  Perhaps that’s why I was shipping the two from the get-go.  My only complaint about their relationship is how forgiving of his mistakes she is time after time, with little fight against it.  Still, he was so complex with a history that I was dying to figure out.  I have to insert my favorite quote in the book here: “Not quite sure how far she’d already fallen, she imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars come out.”  I enjoyed his progression throughout the story, and how he softened throughout the novel in regards to his willingness to falling in love.

The relationships between the characters was one of the best parts, in my opinion. Scarlett and her sister Tella’s personalities bounced off of each other in a way that only sisters can.  Having two sisters of my own, I could feel the weight that Scarlett felt trying to save her sister.  I loved her struggling between loving Tella and loving Julian, and fighting between her own desires and her protectiveness of Tella.  Even the minor characters had very strong personalities that made you instantly like or hate them.  She was constantly meeting new characters on her journey, trying to decide who was friend or foe.  I liked one in particular, Aiko, who just popped in randomly and was awesome.

Caraval itself was a world I’d love to visit.  It balanced magical curiosity and imminent danger in a way that I have to give applause to Garber.  You wanted to see its wonders and experience everything all at once, even though you knew there was something not quite right.  I felt like I was walking right along with Scarlett and could see and feel its pull all around me.

I think what I love most about this book is how I was constantly filled with so many questions that I had such a need to know the answer to right then and there.  Garber knows exactly how to give you just enough information to wanting more.  This is the first book in a long time that I read in one sitting.


Overall Rating: 4.5 stars