I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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.
Easily the best book of Ms. Estep’s that I have read to date! There are definite threads of similarity to her Elemental Assassin series—like that series, this one has a detailed and complex magic system. Estep does a great job, however, of introducing the reader to the system without lecturing about it. She is also adept at creating extremely tough heroines—capable of taking a licking and keeping on ticking. Just like Gin Blanco of the Elemental Assassin series, Everleigh Blair has hidden talents that she can use to her benefit. Early in this book, Everleigh is thrown from a great height into a river, reminding me that Gin Blanco also had a big fall/jump into a river, although I can’t remember which book it happened in. I’ve got to get back to that series eventually.
Another similarity which made me smile—both women (Everleigh and Gin) are bakers! When we are first introduced to Lady Everleigh, she is baking pies for a royal event. Ms. Estep must either be a baker herself or a devotee of good baking, as she lovingly describes the confections that her characters produce.
I hope that my library is planning to acquire the second volume, Protect the Prince.