PROTECT THE PRINCE, Crown of Shards #2, July 2
Magic, murder, adventure, and romance combine in this second novel in the exciting Crown of Shards saga from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep.
Everleigh Blair might be the new gladiator queen of Bellona, but her problems are far from over.
First, Evie has to deal with a court full of arrogant, demanding nobles, all of whom want to get their greedy hands on her crown. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an assassin tries to kill Evie in her own throne room.
Despite the dangers, Evie goes ahead with a scheduled trip to the neighbouring kingdom of Andvari in order to secure a desperately needed alliance. But complicating matters is the stubborn Andvarian king, who wants to punish Evie for the deaths of his countrymen during the Seven Spire massacre.
Dark forces are also at work inside the Andvarian palace, and Evie soon realizes that no one is safe. Worse, her immunity to magic starts acting in strange, unexpected ways, which makes Evie wonder whether she is truly strong enough to be a Winter Queen.
Evie’s magic, life, and crown aren’t the only things in danger—so is her heart, thanks to Lucas Sullivan, the Andvarian king’s bastard son and Evie’s … well, Evie isn’t quite sure what Sullivan is to her.
Only one thing is certain—protecting a prince might be even harder than killing a queen…
PROTECT THE PRINCE EXCERPT
I stared up at the queen’s throne sitting on top of the dais. The chair was crafted of jagged pieces of tearstone that had been dug out of Seven Spire and fitted together centuries ago. The throne gleamed with a soft, muted light, shifting from starry gray to midnight-blue and back again, just like the columns did. The changing colors represented the Summer and Winter lines of the Blair royal family, as well as the everlasting strength of the Bellonan people.
I had seen the throne many, many times before, but now that it was mine, I found it far more intimidating, especially since the top featured the same crown-of-shards crest that adorned my tunic, bracelet, sword, and dagger. I had never paid any attention to that symbol before the royal massacre, but now, it was everywhere I went. Sometimes, I thought I would have been far happier if I had never seen it at all. I certainly would have been much safer.
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.
The words to the old Bellonan fairy-tale rhyme echoed in my mind, as though all the queens who had come before were whispering them to me over and over again. I listened to the phantom voices a moment longer, then exhaled, slowly climbed up the dais steps, turned around, and sat down on the throne.
That was the signal everyone had been waiting for, and all the lords, ladies, senators, guilders, and others strode forward, stopping a few feet away from the bottom of the dais. They split into their usual cliques and began gossiping, while servants handed out sweet cakes, fresh fruits and cheeses, and glasses of blackberry sangria.
I looked up at the second-floor balcony. More nobles milled around there, eating, drinking, talking, and watching me, although they were all poorer and thus far less important than the ones on the first floor.
I started to drop my gaze when I noticed a man sitting by himself in the top corner of the balcony. He was wearing a long gray coat over a black tunic, and his dark brown hair gleamed under the lights, although a bit of stubble darkened his strong jaw. His handsome features were as blank as mine were, and I couldn’t tell what he was thinking, although his blue eyes burned into mine with fierce intensity.
My nostrils flared. Even though he was as far away from me as possible, I could still pick out his scent—cold, clean vanilla with just a hint of spice—above all the others in the room. I drew in another breath, letting his scent sink deep down into my lungs, and trying to ignore the hot spark of desire it ignited inside me.
Lucas Sullivan was the magier enforcer of the Black Swan troupe, a bastard prince of Andvari, and my . . . Well, I didn’t know exactly what he was to me. Much more than a friend, but not a lover, despite my pointed advances on that front. But I cared about him more than I wanted to think about, especially now, when I was facing another battle inside my own palace.
So I dropped my gaze from his and studied the nobles again. Even though I had been queen for about three months, ever since I had killed Vasilia, the crown princess and my treacherous cousin, this was my first formal court session. Practically every noble from across the kingdom had journeyed here to discuss business and other matters, and it was important that things went well. I doubted they would, though. The nobles weren’t going to like some of the things I had to say.
While the nobles chattered and downed their food and drinks, I discreetly drew in a breath, letting the air roll in over my tongue and tasting all the scents in it. The people’s floral perfumes and spicy colognes. The fruity tang of the sangria. The pungent aroma of the blue cheeses that the servants were slicing on the buffet tables along the walls.
I opened my mouth to start the session when one final scent assaulted my senses—hot, jalapeño rage so strong that it made my nose burn with its sudden, sharp intensity.
Most people scoffed at my mutt magic, but my enhanced sense of smell was quite useful in one regard—it let me sense people’s emotions, and very often their intentions. Garlic guilt, ashy heartbreak, minty regret. I could tell what someone was feeling—and often what they were plotting—just by tasting the scents that swirled around them.
I’d had years to hone my mutt magic, so I knew that jalapeño rage meant only one thing.
Someone here wanted to kill me.
This was such an amazing read!
I would give this book more than 5 stars if I could!
This book was an incredible story of lies, treachery, deceit, and hidden agendas.
There were so many twists and turns and unexpected circumstances and secrets that were wonderfully executed and beautifully revealed.
I loved the development of Evie and Sullivan’s complicated characters and how much of their past seemed to affect their present decisions.
Loved the tension between Evie and Sullivan and the nice twist at the end.
They perfectly complimented one another.
I look forward to reading more books in this series!
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About the Author
Jennifer Estep is a New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.
Jennifer writes the Crown of Shards epic fantasy series. Protect the Prince, book #2, will be released on July 2.
Jennifer is also the author of the Elemental Assassin, Mythos Academy, Bigtime, and Black Blade fantasy series.
For more information on Jennifer and her books, visit www.jenniferestep.com or follow Jennifer on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. You can also sign up for her newsletter.
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