Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1
Published by HarperTeen
Published on September 20, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Format: eBook, Hardcover
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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 Black Witches are born in a glen,
Sweet little triplets
Will never be friends.”
While it took me a while to get a grasp on the world of Three Dark Crowns, the world-building was ultimately what kept me turning the page. With Three Dark Crowns, Kendare Blake has crafted a world of intriguing and deadly women—women who are loyal, brutal, and complex; women who make men tremble when they speak—and I enjoyed it immensely.
Three Dark Crowns is the story of three sisters—triplets—fighting for the right to be called Queen. And, to become Queen, one must kill the others. It’s not as harsh as it sounds; the sisters are raised separately, never really knowing one another, and taught to consider each other as enemies. They each live in different parts of the same land and, as such, each sister has her own world and storyline. And, surprisingly, they all have something likable about their characters (so good luck choosing one to root for).
First, there is Mirabella, the Elemental. She is able to control the wind, fire, and weather. Of the three sisters, she is the most magically gifted, the strongest. But, she is emotionally weak. She has dreams and fond memories of her sisters and, as such, no desire to kill them. But, the rumors of her power have her marked as the next Queen and those who have invested their time and energy into seeing her crowned refuse the prospect of any other outcome. Living in a world of punishing priestesses and savage sacrifices, Mirabella is caught between what she wants and what her people demand.
Second, there is Arsinoe. Character wise, she is my favorite of the sisters—she’s fierce and fiery, “meaner than any bear.” In my opinion, her character is more developed than the other sisters, who dull in comparison. Arsinoe is supposed to be a Naturalist, someone who can control nature and a “familiar” (an animal symbolic of a naturalist’s power and energy, kind of like a Patronus). Arsinoe’s friend Jules, who is considered to be one of the strongest naturalists, has a mountain lion as a familiar. Arsinoe isn’t sure what her familiar is because her powers haven’t exactly kicked in yet, making her the weakest of her three sisters.
Finally, there is Katharine, the Poisoner. As a poisoner, Katharine should have an affinity for the strongest toxins. But, like Arsinoe, Katharine’s powers are weak. While she has developed an immunity to some poisons (as she has been poked and prodded with them for years), she still has trouble withstanding them. However, she can mix up a mean, deadly tonic with no problem—this is how she plans to kill her sisters. Katharine’s poisonous world is my favorite. She was raised by a family of unforgiving poisoners who season their food and sweeten their drinks with the deadliest of herbs. They kill their prisoners with poison—the worse the deed, the worse the death sentence. But, in spite of living in such a severe world, Katharine remains kind-hearted.
There are many secondary characters in Three Dark Crowns—love interests, friends, family members—who add to the complexity of the world. Relationships overlap and intertwine, weaving a thick web that I am excited to explore in the second installment of this fantasy series. However, I will say that there were some secondary perspectives that I could have done without and traded in for more development of the main characters.
Three Dark Crowns has it dark moments, but I would have liked to see a little more drama and a little more blood. But, being that this is the first book in a series, I am willing to ignore the lack of enthralling excitement because worldbuilding and story establishment are essential. My romance quota was met, though—there was more than enough lovey dovey-ness (but not so much that it was overwhelming).
My main qualm with Three Dark Crowns is the writing. The story is told in third person with multiple character perspectives (which I’m used to). But, it’s also told in present tense, which was hard for me to get into. I think that the tense and the story’s formal tone makes it difficult in the beginning for readers to connect with the story and characters.
Overall, I really liked Three Dark Crowns. I loved the story and the feminist world. I’m excited to see who becomes Queen. (Right now, I’m rooting for Arsinoe because I love a good underdog story.) I’m looking forward to seeing some character development and exciting action/drama in the future. I would recommend this to fantasy lovers who enjoy a slower-paced story that builds to a gripping end.
This one gets four dark and deadly stars from me!
“Three Black Witches, all fair to be seen.
Two to devour,
And one to be queen.”
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