Three Dark Crowns #1
by Kendare Blake
Published on September 20, 2016 by HarperTeen
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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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.
Not going to lie, I had high hopes for this book. Three queens, one throne, and a fight to the death to get it? Sounds pretty exciting to me. Katharine the poisoner, Mirabella the elementalist, and Arsinoe the naturalist will battle it out for rule of Fennbirn.
Let’s start with our three queens.
Katharine has been trained in the art of poisons. She’s a good student but meek and not exactly royal in appearance. For a while, she was actually my favorite queen because I could see her having this big character arc where she comes into herself and is fierce. Instead…well, she kind of disappeared for the second half of the book. Then there’s Arsinoe, the naturalist who is supposed to be able to call a familiar and feel the world around her and all that nonsense. Instead her story focuses on the girl training her, Jules. Wait, I thought this was about three queens. Yeah, me too. Finally, Mirabella the elementalist was just… forgettable. I had to refresh myself because I didn’t even remember her name. She takes on the “rebellious queen” role and wants to protect her sisters instead of killing them which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole “one throne” business. And also doesn’t really work out in a bonding kind of way. They’re still at each other’s throats so pretty much fails on that front.
But the biggest issue with this story is that nothing really happened.
I read, chapter after chapter, waiting for a big twist, something to spark the action. instead, I was treated to 300+ pages of each queen preparing to kill the others but not really accomplishing anything in the time between. There’s an attempt at a couple romance subplots thrown in for good measure as well. One with Katharine but it never really felt like a romance and only seemed to be a plot device to make the ending more exciting and cliff-hanger-y. The other wasn’t even with one of the queens but Jules again, which I also wasn’t feeling. Just fell flat, a little insta-love-esque and not convincing in the least. Plot device number two.
Is Jules going to turn out to be a queen? Because she got a lot of page time.
Plus, this cast is massive. Each queen has an entire mini cast to herself so the story is all over the place, with little stories all happening as offshoots of the main plot. Those actually went somewhere and were far more interesting, with plans of murder and destruction coming from those surrounding the queens. Also, the chapters switched between points of view. Okay, that’s cool. I don’t mind that when it’s done well. But for starters, the chapter headers only gave location names instead of the character whose head you were in and often times it wasn’t one of the queens. I really wasn’t confused by that but I wanted more time with the queens. This book is about them, about the fact that they are sisters who have to fill each other for the right to rule, about how they must not only face each other but those surrounding their sisters who plot against them. There was so much potential here.
Now I will say the writing itself was great. I love Blake’s style and despite the boring pace I still continued to read. But the rest of the book just wasn’t up to par. The ending tried to be a cliffhanger but I wasn’t invested enough in each of the queens for it to matter. Will I read the sequel? Probably. Was I impressed by Three Dark Crowns? Not really.