Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Release date: September 20, 2016
Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.
If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.
Three Dark Crowns is actually the first Kendare Blake novel I have read, despite having her other series on my TBR for quite some time; and this book has made my fall in love with her writing – I was impressed by the world-building, and the way the society of Fennbirn was constructed. The island country has female rulers and most positions of power are held by women. As for the plot, the closest I can come to comparing it would be the War of the Five Kings in Game of Thrones. So, on the island the magic is divided into gifts, and three main gifts – poisoner, elemental and naturalist, are common and have reigning houses. Each generation of rulers are born as triplet daughters, each usually manifesting one of the three main gifts, and they are separated at childhood and brought up in their respective gifted community. On their 16th birthday, the challenge for the throne begins and since the houses rule the island once the Queen has given birth to the next generation, there is fierce competition for the throne. Forget nature, it’s all nurture ruling here.
As each Queen is groomed for her battle against the other two – right from childhood – she is taught to hate and despise her sisters. The tale of these sisters – Mirabelle, Arsinoe and Katherine is told from the third perspective, but shuffles around with the viewpoint of secondary characters. We see how the power-hungry houses don’t even care for their respective Queen – she is merely an instrument for them to gain power – and burden her with that responsibility. For the sisters, though, it is a fight for survival, and being apart means they have no love for each other that would make them hesitate. The crooked manipulations of the houses are such that they will twist any other Queen’s actions into an act of war. The girls themselves are sheltered for the most part, and even the best of the houses, the naturalists, still are quite bad when it comes to resolving differences.
The romance portion of the novel was not that interesting, and there is unnecessary drama with the love triangle. No book-boyfriend worthy males (all are boring) here, so far, but I like that the sisters and their quest for the throne is the main focus. Still, I felt the sisters themselves aren’t brought out that well – for now, they are mostly naive girls getting carried away. Mirabelle really needs to let go of her one-night stand, Arsinoe should invest time in looking up Terms & Conditions of Low Magic, and Katherine – well, I like where her path is going for now. The female relationships in this book were better developed, in my opinion, with the easy friendships the girls had among their friends, as well as varied kinds of maternal affection displayed. What I am now interested in how this plays out between the sisters – will they realize how they have been conditioned for hate all their lives, or will they give in to the power struggle and war with each other. The fact that the ending had a nice little twist (oh, it was good) means there is chance for some major upsetting of the status quo, and I am hopeful that the sequel will live up to this good start.
Received a free galley from HarperTeen, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest unbiased review.
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