BUY THIS BOOK NOW. I absolutely loved this book. Full disclosure, I didn't read the blurb and just saw the author's name. Excited to see a new series, I picked it up. It is a definite winner because this new trilogy continues on in the Crown of Shards universe. Can this book be read without reading the previous trilogy? Absolutely. I still highly recommend reading the previous trilogy because the worldbuilding will enhance the understanding of this book.
The main character is Gemma Ripley. She is one of a handful of survivors from the slaughter of the royals in a bid by the greedy and war driven country Morta. Sixteen years later, Gemma still carries traces of her traumatic times. Is she really a survivor or is she still a victim? Gemma is oddly both. Gemma is hiding in some ways. This first book gives us a baseline of Gemma, starting on her hero's journey. I am pretty confident that this trilogy is going to be focused on character progression which is my favourite type of storyline. Gemma is going to be coming into her own. Seeing her mistakes and how she grows to become a force to be reckon with, will be exciting. For too long, she's used her public and private personas to hid her uncontrolled power. When an undercover job goes totally wrong, Gemma is forced to integrate her two personas and grow into the potential she can be.
I love themes where growth comes from adversity. Facing past demons and hurts to see that perhaps the actions in the past were not as we exactly remember it is great to witness. For Gemma, coming across her "arch nemesis" Prince Leonidas of Morta is the catalyst for her to finally stop hiding. Leo is a character first introduced in the 1st trilogy. His affinity for animals and his interactions with Evie on the downlow is leads me to believe Leo is not what he comes across. His world is vastly different from Gemma's. Ms. Estep does a wonderful job in comparing and contrasting between two family environments. It is clear that Gemma believes family will always be there for you whilst Leo knows any member of his family could be out to kill him. There are a couple more characters in this book that are intriguing. I am looking forward to seeing Leo's sister and if she will have her own novella or perhaps a trilogy of her own.
This book is action packed and layered with intrigue. I have been reading Ms. Estep since her Elemental Assassin series. Each of her series have refined her writing voice and world building creation. I feel like this universe with Evie and Gemma is the culmination of all her growth. The maturity of the worldbuilding and character creation shows in this universe. I can see Ms. Estep's writing voice becoming stronger and more complex in the stories she weaves. I cannot wait to see what happens next. This fantasy is highly recommended to readers who enjoy blurred lines, a spunky heroine and frienemies coming of age themes.