Spycraft and Romance: A Review of Capture the Crown, by Jennifer Estep

There is an art to be found when crafting a sequel, a careful balance to be struck, which I talked about in several opening paragraphs in other reviews.  When it comes to creating not just a sequel, but a sequel series, however, that requires a completely different skillset and outlook.  Sometimes, after a series has concluded the story it wished to tell, there is room for additional stories.  Many authors will shift focus to a different character or a different region of their world entirely.  Often, the writer employs a time jump, catching up to characters and worlds many years after the original ending.  When writing a sequel series, a careful balance must be struck; a balance between retaining old readers and drawing in new ones.  Tip that balance, and you risk alienating one or both of these groups.  For the perfect example, look no farther than the Star Wars sequel trilogy.  The first movie, The Force Awakens, achieved this balance easily, introducing new characters and keeping one or two old ones.  However, the final movie, The Rise of Skywalker, wrapped itself in misplace nostalgia to everyone’s detriment, creating a finale that satisfied no one.  The balance was not maintained.

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Black Ring Match: A Review of Crush the King, by Jennifer Estep

I have talked endlessly about the power of fantasy novels on this blog, and will continue to do so as long as this genre maintains its unique power.  Fantasy is about all about creation and imagination, allowing readers to inhabit worlds wholly unlike our own.  It is a measure of escapism that other literary genres can only dream of.  Free from the pretentiousness of literary fiction, and liberated from the need for explanation in science-fiction, fantasy authors set their own rules in each new story.  Crush the King is the third and latest novel in Jennifer Estep’s wonderful Crown of Shards series, preceded by Kill the Queen and Protect the Prince.  Few would call this story literary fiction, but few series are more fun to read that the adventures of Everleigh “Evie” Saffira Winter Blair.

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Regicide: A Review of Protect the Prince, by Jennifer Estep

A good fantasy series can potentially go on forever.  Series like the The Wheel of Time or The Dresden Files easily tell a dozen books worth of story.  However, a great fantasy series knows it’s ending, even if takes a while to get there.  Jim Butcher has stated he knows the ending for The Dresden Files and how many books the series will contain.  The reader can see that the story is leading somewhere definite.  Even if the ending suggested in book one is now the ending for the entire series, it still suggests a finality.  Jennifer Estep’s Crown of Shards series is only two books in, but we already have a sense of where the ultimate plot is going.  Machinations have already begun and there is a clear-long term villain.  Ultimately, it is always possible for a series to arrive at its first ending, and realize there is more story to tell.  With great fantasy, there is a sea of endless possibility that allows characters to develop and keep the plot always interesting.

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Tyrannicide: A Review of Kill the Queen, by Jennifer Estep

Fantasy is a realm of endless imagination where all it takes is one idea, one small change to our world, to create a brand-new reality unlike anything anyone has seen before.  Castles can float in the sky, anyone can learn magic, and the gods walk among humankind.  Fantasy is the genre for those who can dream, who can create universes in their heads and put them to paper.  Despite its power, fantasy is looked down upon in the literary community.  It is not “high art.”  It is not literature, it is one of the “genres.”  But the fantasy genre wields a power which literary novels do not: it makes you see past the words written on the page and stimulates your own imagination.  In direct opposition to literary fiction, the best fantasy novels are the ones that make you forget that you are reading a book.

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