Title: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: YA / Fantasy
Series: Three Dark Crowns
Synopsis: When kingdom come, there will be one.
In 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. (taken from Goodreads)
Three Dark Crowns drew me in with its interesting premise. Three sisters having to fight each other for the crown? Sounds like my kind of book. Did it live up to my expectations? Well… sort of. My biggest issue is that this book starts off way too slow. The first couple of chapters were boring enough for me to consider DNFing several times. I probably would’ve, had I not snuck a peek at the reviews on Goodreads. It seemed that many others had the same problem as I did, but ended up raving about the book anyway, so why the hell not give it a go?
The book follows three sisters. One is a poisoner with a weak stomach. Another is a giftless naturalist. The last is a powerful elemental. Initially, I only cared about one of them but by the end of the book, I was invested in all three. The book managed to do its job, despite the not-so-stellar first impression. What’s even better is that it’s nearly impossible to pick queen to root for since they’re all so human and relatable. Each queen has her strengths and weaknesses, and is badass in her own way.
Plot-wise, the book is full of political intrigue and romance (yes, all three sisters get a love interest). But barely anything happens in the first half. Because we have to juggle between three protagonists, each chapter ends up feeling like we’re diving into a new book. So basically, we have to start from scratch and get invested in a bunch of new characters.
The concept and the characters in general were great. The execution and the writing though… they definitely weren’t the best that they could be.
Admittedly, the ending was pretty good. Was it worth trudging through endless chapters of nothing? That all depends. If you manage to get even the least bit invested in the characters, then I’d say yes. But if you’re the type who can’t seem to get invested after going through most of the book not caring for them, then maybe you should pass this up and look for something a little more fast-paced.
This portion of the review is a slightly more in-depth discussion of the book and will contain spoilers/rants/raves. Read at your own discretion.
Like I said, the book was slow. Agonizingly slow. It wasn’t until I hit a little over 100 pages that I was starting to care for the characters and the plot. Even so, the story doesn’t really speed up until the last couple of chapters. The entire thing felt more like a set-up: we’re introduced to the characters, the world, the history, and the goal… which, you know, is a pretty standard thing for a first book in a series. Except in this case, nothing else happens.
Up until the crazy twists at the end, all the book did was show each queen in their respective homes. That was basically why the pacing was so off. With every chapter we get introduced to another part of the world, another set of characters, and another culture. The constant jumps disconnected me from the story. Just when I start getting invested in a character, the chapter ends, and I find myself having to reinvest myself in this new character. Kinda exhausting after a while. It did get better though, once the three stories began to somewhat merge, but there were hardly any interactions between the sisters, aside from the two brief meetings between Arisnoe and Mirabella. Yeah, I know they weren’t allowed to because of the rules and everything but I seriously spent the most of book waiting for them to just interact. The entire premise is based off the idea of three sisters killing each other. Really, all they did was hone their individual skills and flirt with some boy they meet.
Okay, I personally thought the world-building was a bit of a mess. This might be because the pages where the map was printed on in my book had been stuck together so the entire time I was reading, I thought there wasn’t any map. Still, the fact that I actually needed a map to properly visualize the island tells me something about the writing. I kind of get the general idea of each division. Naturalists live simple lives, poisoners put poison in everything, and all that. But then other places were really confusing to me. I had trouble connecting everything in general. I don’t know, maybe it was just me. I can definitely see potential for the world though. It’s just that I wanted a little bit more from it. Maybe more about the politics and the history, specifically.
One thing I did love was the matriarchal society! Yay for queens and women in power!
At the start of the book, I found myself liking Katharine the most. Her story arc was interesing, and part of the reason I was able to force myself to read was because I wanted to find out what happens to her. Katharine is a weak queen. She has to deal with the expectations of all the other poisoners. But throughout the book, she learns to take charge of herself and to utilize what skills she does have instead of focusing on what she lacked. Her last chapter was amazing, and I’m excited to see where Blake takes her character in the next book.
Arisnoe started out as my least favorite, but might actually be my favorite as of now. I absolutely loved her personality. She never hid from anyone, even when people hated her for being giftless. She also didn’t hide after a bear mauled her face. Her reaction surprised me a lot. I expected Arisnoe to turn bitter and get angry or go down the whole “I’m not as beautiful as the other girls” kind of path. Instead, she laughed when she saw her face and found no shame in her wounds. And all this after she already knew that people didn’t think her to be as beautiful (I believe it was said she had face like oatmeal). She was still confident, still true to herself, and I admire her so much because of it.
At the end, it’s revealed that Arisnoe is actually a poisoner and not a naturalist. So does this mean that Katharine is the naturalist? Or are there two poisoners? Katharine seems to display some kind of resistance to poisons, considering she hasn’t died yet from anything she’d ingested, so that might be possible. But okay, that plot twist was genius and I honestly did not see it coming.
Mirabella was also interesting. Plagued by nightmares of her sisters, she tries to run away to keep herself from killing them. I felt so, so sorry for her. When she and Arisnoe bumped into each other, I was hoping they’d just be all sisterly and start caring for each other. But of course it wouldn’t be that easy. I was pretty upsetting how she mistook the incident at Beltane as Arisnoe trying to kill her (Joseph, why the fuck did you not say anything? Wasn’t Arisnoe your friend?) and ugh. Probably shouldn’t get too invested with each sister, considering the premise is about them killing each other.
It’s great how they’re all morally grey and human and relatable. Makes it really hard to root for a specific character to win, especially after witnessing their interactions with their respective families and friends.
Each queen has her own love interest. I think it’s kind of funny how they all found someone within the same year, almost at the same time. Like really? None of them had a crush on anyone before? Not even a sex buddy? It would’ve been nice if at least one of them had an established relationship prior to the book’s events.
The minute Joseph came, I literally wrote in my notes, “Joseph is sketchy af lol” and I was fucking right. Never trusted the guy. Yeah, I’m not even going to talk about him because he doesn’t deserve to be talked about. At all. Instead, I’m going to get into Billy because I adored him. He was a complete sweetheart, loyal to his friends. Out of all the love interests, he seems to be the most transparent. No hidden agendas or secret twists… for now.
Also, I’m really curious to see if Pietyr and Katharine are going to make up because you know, it seems impossible to recover from having your significant other suddenly push you into a pit. Wonder how Pietyr is going to justify that. I mean, it seems as though he did care for Katharine the entire time.
We get super cool friendships! Like Jules and Arisnoe! Does anyone else feel like there’s going to be some big twist involving Jules or is it just me? She’s the strongest naturalist on the island so there must be something. I like how she and Arisnoe are such close friends, and I especially loved how Arisnoe never really got jealous even though Jules was everything she wasn’t. We also get Mirabella, Bree and Elizabeth! Bree and Elizabeth are so caring. Despite getting her hand cut off, Elizabeth still risks sneaking Mira out during the Hunt.
So something I noticed was that the queens seem to be more for decoration than anything. Basically, a figure that the Black Council uses to lead the island. Makes sense, since once the new set of triplets are born, the old queen is disposed of so really, it seems like the queen doesn’t actually rule. It does make me wonder what the hell they’re supposed to do as the queen though, since didn’t seem to be well-versed with politics and the economy. Is bearing triplets truly their only purpose? Questions, questions.
Apart from the slow start, I didn’t have too many gripes. The writing style was okay. There were times when it didn’t flow so smoothly. I had to reread a couple of sentences because the way they had been written was just so confusing, and most of it had to do with dialogue. Anyway, even though this book bored me to death for the most part, I’m definitely going to be reading the second book. Since the groundwork had already been set up in this one, I’m hoping the next book might be more fast-paced and action packed.