BOOK REVIEW: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1)

By: Kendare Blake

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Publication Date: 20 September 2016

Format: Ebook, 416 pages

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. (Goodreads)

Having read and loved previous novels by Kendare Blake, I was excited to get my hands on her new series, Three Dark Crowns. 

Set on the island of Fennbirn, the book follows triplet sisters Katharine, Mirabella and Arsinoe in the lead up to the Ascension. One of them is set to become the next ruler, but island history dictates that the winner will be the one who can kill her two sisters. As they each have a different power, the crown could pass to any one of them, with there being intense pressure from the three cities in which they reside.

Katharine is a poisoner, brought up in the Arron family, who have been developing her tolerance to poisons. She does not show much natural ability for resistance, but it is not the Arron way to show weakness in public. She has the most pressure placed upon her shoulders, and doesn’t want to let anyone else down.

Similarly, Arsinoe shows little talent for her naturalist gift, which is meant to put her at one with nature and be able to manipulate the earth and its creatures. Instead, her best friend Jules is the strong one, having a mountain cat as a familiar and trying her best to help Arsinoe discover her own gift. 

Whilst both weaker siblings try to fake their abilities for the people and their reputations, elemental Mirabella is one of the strongest of her kind for generations. She can control the elements, causing storms when angry or bringing peaceful sunshine. Her gift is known all over the island, and she appears to be the favourite to win the crown.

I found that each queen had her own redeeming qualities, with the book alternating between the three sisters to give us an insight into their upbringing. For me, it was easiest to feel sympathy for Katharine, as she has been habitually poisoned from childhood in an attempt to build up her body’s tolerance, undergoing intense physical and mental pain. She has no-one to turn to, and latches on to the first friendly face with the blind hope that she will somehow be saved. 

Where Katharine shows vulnerability, Arsinoe shows little emotion, being stubborn and headstrong in the face of the upcoming trial. She knows she has no power, and readily falls for the lure of blood magic shown to her by Jules’ mother. This is dark magic with dangerous consequences, as even the best intentions can be misinterpreted and twisted into a different spell. However, Arsinoe won’t go down without a fight, and I did admire how she was trying to stay alive for her friends. 

I won’t say as much about Mirabella, as I didn’t feel like she had enough time dedicated to her in the book, making it difficult to feel any attachment to her. Her strong power made her other, as she doesn’t face the same struggles as her sisters. In fact, I came to dislike her from one moment in the book, and found that I was more attached to Jules, who receives a good amount of characterisation. She might not be a main character, but she has strong powers and is slowly strengthening her confidence too.

In the main, I really enjoyed this book and the introduction to the world of Fennbirn, but did sometimes find that there were too many characters to keep track of around each queen. I also enjoyed certain perspectives more than others, which made me want to skip ahead to reach my favourite ones, and find some chapters a bit slower to get through. There are a few predictable plot points, but generally I was engaged in the story and can’t wait to find out what happens in book two.





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