Title: Three Dark Crowns (2016)
Author: Kendare Blake
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 406 pages
Release Date: October 1, 2016
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown, all possessed of a coveted magic.
Mirabella, a fierce elemental, can spark hungry flames with the click of a finger. Katharine, a poisoner, is known to be resistant to the deadliest of snake bites. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is rumoured to have the ability to bloom the reddest of roses.
But becoming the Queen Crowned is not just a matter of royal birth. These three sisters must fight to the death for the throne, and on the night they turn sixteen the battle begins. Only one queen can inherit the crown.
Three Dark Crowns is my first step into the world of Kendare Blake — I’ve missed the boat that was Anna Dressed in Blood and hadn’t heard of her until this particular book got some hype. Before starting, I expected this story to be kind of like The Hunger Games, where a group of people are placed in an arena and forced to fight to the death for one purpose or another. Three Dark Crowns, however, is a different ballgame altogether.
This is the story of three magical queens: separated when they were six years old, raised in foster families who train their skills, and now must display their powers to the public and fight each other until there is one last standing. There is Mirabella, who controls the elements; Katherine, who has been trained to be immune to poisons; and Arsinoe, who supposedly knows how to control nature. 🌿
Three Black Witches are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends.
Three Black Witches, all fair to be seen
two to devour
and one to be queen.
Coming into the plot, I realised that it wasn’t what I expected about two chapters in. Instead of being action-packed, the story was incredibly slow-boiled, told in a third person POV that jumps from character to character so we get to see what everyone is up to. I’m quite a patient reader when it comes to fantasy and don’t mind a lot of staging, but unfortunately the action only picked up at about the 75% mark and the whole book feels like an introduction to another book instead of its own book. 🤔
The characters aren’t particularly engaging either. Mirabella was to me the least interesting one — her powers are vast, but her motivations aren’t particularly clear to me and I didn’t always get why she acted the way she acted. I thought Katherine would be my favourite and she did develop — but that development felt like it happened off-page so her change just seemed sudden to me. Perhaps it was Arsinoe that I liked best, because the way she grew up was more unique compared to the other two, and her own conflict was the most dire. Simply put, though, while I’m still interested in these characters, they didn’t leave that strong of an impression on me.
“There are stories, of course. Tales of great queens who left the island to become great queens again on the mainland. Others tell of queens who live out the rest of their lives peacefully and quietly, with their consorts. But Arsinoe has never believed a word. In her mind, every last queen lies at the bottom of the sea, drowned by the Goddess the moment she was done with them.”
With three arguably equally important protagonists, we also have a huge cast of supporting characters with their own goals and motivations. There are some romantic relationships happening across the board, most of which I’m sadly not convinced by. One thing I’d say, though, is that these characters express love very freely and liberally and don’t get shamed for it, which is great to see. 🙌
Flaws aside, though, Blake’s world-building is promising enough for me to want to keep going. I personally feel like there’s a little too much left unexplored, but I’ve never been the kind of reader who needs everything explained, and I did enjoy the shallow bits that I did get to see. There are also some twists and turns to do with the queens’ powers that I didn’t expect (mostly because I’m always blind to clues and never read into anything), but I suspect a more discerning reader could’ve picked up on them easily.
“I want revenge,” she whispers, and her fingers trail bloody streaks down Natalia’s arms. “And then I want my crown.”
Overall not a horrible start to a new series, though it lacks a lot of excitement and I did hope for a faster, more action-centric plot. Probably best for really patient readers who don’t mind a bit (OK, a lot) of staging and talking about doing things (instead of actually doing those things), because that’s essentially what this book is. 😂
* I received a copy of THREE DARK CROWNS from Pan Macmillan in exchange for a honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book.
Interested in purchasing Three Dark Crowns? ❤️