cover image Protect the Prince (Crown of Shards #2)

Protect the Prince (Crown of Shards #2)

Jennifer Estep. Harper Voyager, $16.99 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-06-279764-3

Estep’s follow-up to 2018’s Kill the Queen is lots of fun, but it doesn’t truly distinguish itself in the crowded fantasy adventure field. It’s been nine months since the massacre that claimed the lives of the Bellonen queen and much of the royal family. Now Everleigh Blair is queen, and the magic-wielding assassins from neighboring Morta just keep on coming. Evie heads to Andvari to negotiate a treaty and soothe relations with King Heinrich while showing solidarity against Morta; when she discovers that Heinrich’s son, Dominic, is also in the crosshairs, she’ll need her magic and the help of her friends to keep him safe and stay alive. Evie struggles to come to terms with her abilities (including an immunity to magic and a preternatural sense of smell), her new responsibilities as queen, and her bittersweet romance with mage Lucas Sullivan. These challenges add heft, but so many fight scenes don’t allow for much of what made the first book enduring, such as Evie’s friendships. Perhaps in the next book, readers will get to see more of fun characters such as Sullivan’s charming niece, Gemma, and her gargoyle, Grimley. Nonetheless, a satisfying finale neatly sets up Queen Evie’s next chapter. (July)