Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood will devour her latest novel, a dark and inventive fantasy about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen. 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.
Three Dark CrownsFeatured
The dark YA fantasy tale of a brutal matriarchy, and its vicious method of choosing its rulers.
On an island kingdom steeped in magic and sadistic tradition, triplet girls are always born to the ruling queen. When they come of age, it is expected that these young queens battle each other to the death for the right to rule. This generation’s sisters are Katherine the poisoner, Arsinole the naturalist, and Mirabella the elemental—each representing a sub-peoples who possess their same abilities. And unfortunately for some, these queens are far from evenly matched…
What I Liked:
The beginning provides a good hook and sets the darker tone of the overarching story. The present-tense POVs alternate primarily between each queen, although there’s a sprinkling of side character perspectives as well—which all work and feel needed to deepen reader insight.
The complexity paid to the relationship of the three sisters holds solid interest. As they lived together and knew each other until they were six years old, there are variable memories some of them are able to dredge up. And despite the girls having been trained to hate each other so it will be easier to kill their siblings when the time comes, its clear that won’t be so simple. (This really brings the logic of these traditions into question, but this first installment doesn’t go about answering many of them. It may, however, drive readers to hang on further into the series in hopes of sorting out the reasoning.)
I have to applaud the twist at the very end. This reader didn’t see it coming, and it effectively heightened interest. It may very well make up the minds of readers on the fence about reading the next book in the series.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
-Despite their titles, the three queens turn out to have very little agency unto themselves. It becomes clear partway through that the girls are little more than pawns, being pushed about by those with actual power within their factions. There is some growth as they each attempt to assert control over their own fates, but ultimately a sense of futility. And this book’s lack of explanations regarding the magic system, traditions, origins, etc. may further frustrate that sense for readers who prefer more thorough worldbuilding.
-The pacing doesn’t pick up until the last 15-20% or so, and then it moves at near breakneck speed. While it was nice to see some action, it was also a bit jarring in effect after so much prequel-like setup with little forward momentum. If it were slow because of lush worldbuilding, that would have been easier to accept. But instead the bogging down seems more from an abundance of mundane day-to-day doings than on construction of the fantasy setting and/or rules to the magic system.
-The voices of the three queens sometimes lost their distinction, particularly through the more slouching middle of the story. This tended to exacerbate the lack of connection I was able to feel toward any of them. To the point where I pitied each girl—for slightly different reasons—but can’t say I ultimately liked or was rooting for any of them. (Except maybe Arsinole toward the end. I genuinely wanted her to escape the story entirely. But mostly because her page time seemed largely tossed away to instead focus on the romantic drama of Jules and Joseph.)
YA Content Notes:
* This reader is not AT ALL a fan of the sudden sex-with-a-stranger scene. Not just because it’s difficult to relate to (I do recognize that some people’s sexuality is that flexible). It's the lack of consent. Anyone half-drowned, hypothermic, feverish, and delirious to the point where they don't recognize reality is NOT able to give consent. Male rape is still rape. So, he’s confused when he does come to and admits he kind of liked it, but feels horrible he (sort of?) cheated on his fiancé… but there’s something nebulous going on about magical interference in free will…? Yeah, no.
If a male char had taken advantage of a female char like this, I can't see it going over well.
*Also, absolutely no mention or regard is paid to contraception at any point—despite two of the three queens being sexually active. But obviously, this is a far lesser issue compared with the rape.
Intriguing premise and promisingly dysfunctional sibling relationships, but overall probably more enjoyable for fans of romantic drama/insta-love/love-triangles who don’t mind their fantasy worldbuilding on the sparse side.
Is it possible to give a book more than 5 stars...because if it were....this book would have TEN!!!!! I have loved all of Kendare's books but this one is by far my favorite!!!!
Let's begin with THAT cover...Yes...THAT COVER!!! Three crowns...each covered in something different. The first is covered in plants and flowers, the second is covered in fire and smoke, and the third is covered in snakes..yes...snakes. Seriously..if that doesn't grab your attention..nothing will!
Three Dark Crowns (Untitled, #1)
These three young queens are faced with an impossible future full of heartbreaking choices that no young girl should have to make. There are three queens but only one can reign....So the three queens are raised and taught to develop their special abilities in order to kill the other two and take the crown.
Mirabella- The Elemental
Katherine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella are triplets who are separated at the age of 6 and taken to their respective islands to be raised and trained in the art of their ability.
Katherine is fed deadly poisons throughout her entire life in order to make herself immune so that she can fight against her sisters.
Arsinoe can command any plant or animal and they will do her bidding which will help her in the final fight against her sisters.
Mirabella can command fire and the elements and by the very beginning you can tell she is the fiercest of them all and the most deadly.
Three Dark Crowns is told from each of the queens perspectives so you learn how each of them is living and dealing with their destiny. I loved how each of the queens are telling their own stories and you get to experience their lives with them and the people that they each love and care about and how this horrible fate is affecting them all. I found myself loving each of the queens which makes it so difficult to think that only one of them will survive to take the crown.
Each queen has close friends that they love so dearly and each has their own special story that is so full of feels, heartbreak, and yet.... hope....I loved each and every page of this book...I was flipping pages late into the night just to be able to read more about these characters....Kendare writes each one in a way that you really connect with them all and you feel what they are feeling and I just cannot describe how great that makes this book...I mean seriously....Kendare...you KNOW how to write a story...
I really liked how the book was not only about the three queens but also their friends and their stories as well. Two of my favorite characters besides the queens were Jules and Elizabeth...Oh I loved them and their animal companions....(You have to read the book to understand ;) )
"Jules is a Beltane Begot, a child conceived during the festival of Beltane, like the queens. It is considered very lucky, and they are all supposed to be charmed, but it is a horrible birthday to have. Forgotten and overshadowed."
I could just write and write about this book because I loved it so much...but I want to leave the secrets for each reader to experience themselves. I love fantasy books and this is by far my favorite of this year!!! Three Dark Crowns has it all...Fantasy, romance, heartbreak and FULL of suspense.....I highly recommend this book and I know you will enjoy it as much as me!!! and I cannot wait to read the next one...If Three Dark Crowns was this amazing...then I cant wait to see what the sequel has in store!! WOW!
Kendare Blake...YOU ROCK!!!!
I loved the dark premise of this novel and seeing how each sector of society manipulated their queen in order to cement their hold on the potential power. It was also interesting to watch how each group controlled their ward through both obvious and subtle means, but controlled nonetheless.
The novel did drag some in the middle. Two of the queens seemed more interested in finding love than finding power and it took a great deal of time to get them into the same place, during which the plot became rather tedious. In regards to the love interests, I was totally behind Katherine's and loved reading about them growing closer and how he was able to help her develop strength and confidence. However, I found Mirabella's love interest nauseating and wanted to smack both of them whenever they were together.
Where the first half or so of the novel dragged a little, the last third more than made up for it. I almost wish this was where the novel began, with all that came before it being condensed into a shorter intro. There are a couple of major plot twists, one I saw coming a mile away but one that I am still left trying to figure out long after I have finished the book. This bodes very well for the second book in the series, due this September.
But most of this book isn't the fight. It's more about getting to know each sister and their lives. Some have said it's boring and lacks action at the beginning, but I enjoyed the slow weaving of information.
This would definitely be compared to an upper PG13 movie, for anyone who wants to be choosy about their reads, especially for younger readers. There are mentions of intimacy even if it's not in detail. There is almost no profanity though.
Rating: 2.5 Stars
I really wanted to love this book, unfortunately, I just didn't care for it. I went in beyond excited to read this, the synopsis sounds amazing and I was buddy-reading it with close friends, but it, unfortunately, was just a let down for me. Initially, I thought that I would be getting a story full of action and suspense instead it was more about world building and setting the stage for action later in the series. This made the pacing of the book feel painfully slow, I don't think that it really picked up till about halfway through the book. Even after picking up, I still don't think that I was ever fully as engrossed as I hoped I would be.
While I will admit my expectations did play a large role in my feelings of this book, it was not my only reason for disliking the book. I really was not a fan of the writing style of this book. The book was constantly switching from one point of view to another, sometimes even switching between people while still in the same chapter. This made the book very confusing at times, and difficult to understand whose point of view I was reading. I was also annoyed that we got a lot of Kathrine and Mirabella's points of view but very little of Arsionoe's. For me at least, this made it very hard to connect with Arsinoe as a character. I feel that I would have liked the book more if she had found a way to tell the story only from the Queen's points of view.
Lastly was the world, while it was beautiful and fantastical, it was just too much and was very confusing at times. The author would often reference historical events of the world and would sometimes explain and sometimes leave the reader hanging. The world is just so intricate it seems like historical preface or appendix to give the reader some context. I was also left confused because the author references the real historical event of Cleopatra VII ( the one we all know as Cleopatra) having her sister Arsinoe murdered, which made me wonder if this world was somehow connected to ours or if this was simply an easter egg.
All in all, the book itself was not horrible, but I probably would not have finished it if it were not for the fact that I was buddy reading. That being said, due to the ending, which was probably the best aspect of the book, and the fact that a friend, whose opinion I trust, has raved about the sequel, I will probably try to continue with the series. With any luck, the rest of the series will make up for the slow start.
I could write more of all the things I loved about it, but really, it was everything.
One of my favorite reads in 2017.
I liked the contrast between the three sisters and the people who raised them. Katherine was a poisoner with a weak ability to withstand the poisons given to her daily. She was supposed to be immune but what she had was built up from tolerance, not from any gift. Arsinoe was a naturalist, able to make flowers bloom, able to control animals, but again there had been no sign of any strong gift from her. The only sister to show a strong gift was Mirabella, an elemental who could control all four elements and who would easily dispose of both her sisters and win the throne if Katherine’s and Arsinoe’s families couldn’t find ways to help them.
The plot went between the three sisters and their families as they all prepared for the day the three girls would meet and the battle for the throne would begin. We got to see how sure Mirabella’s family was of her success, how Arsinoe’s and Katherine’s families planned on helping them, the history of other queens and their stories. Everything about it was so creepy and dark. The only way to become the queen on the throne was for your two sisters to die and even being raised apart for most of your life, that’s not an easy way to start a reign.
The first book was very character driven and very set-up focused, as mentioned. It did it’s job in making me very excited for the rest of the series to see how everything will play out. I have so many questions and theories that need to be proven or more clues to form them a little better. There were reasons I wanted each sister to be the one to live and each of them felt like they were on equal footing in that regard. I like that Kendare Blake was able to make me care about each sister so there wasn’t really one I would choose over the other. Just because I had a favourite didn’t mean I wanted the other two sacrificed because I cared about the people who cared about them.
Definitely a book that made me excited for the whole series.
Every generation a new set of triplets are born, all queens and with an equal claim to the crown – but only one will reign. At the age of six, Mirabella, Arsinoe and Katharine, the current triplets, are separated and sent to live on distant parts of the island of Fennbirn to be raised and trained in their respective gifts. The annual Beltane festival approaches, but on their sixteenth year, the festival marks the beginning of the Ascension Year, where the sisters must covertly kill each other until only one remains to assume the throne.
Going into a novel like this, with three central protagonists, I was worried. I thought I would love one queen more than the others and that I would be crushed if said queen was defeated. The reality was worse than that: I loved all the queens and by the conclusion of the novel, I was a mess of tears and anxiety as I didn’t want any of them to be killed. That is certainly the mark of a great writer when you feel a strong connection with all of the characters and cannot choose a favourite.
Katharine, the youngest, is a poisoner queen. She has the ability to consume great amounts of poison without it killing her, but her gift is weak. The family that is in charge of her training, the Arrons, frequently poison her in order to build up her immunity but all it results in is a frail queen covered in scars and marks from the constant poisons. The Arrons have remained in control of the Black Council, the government body that rules while the queens are children, for the past three generations as the last three successive queens have been poisoners. Katharine tries to live up to the expectations of a legacy and is terrified she will destroy the potential poisoner dynasty.
Arsinoe is a naturalist queen. Like her younger sister, Arsinoe’s gift is weak: she should be able to make flowers bloom and have control over animals, but her power is not strong enough and she is convinced that she will be the first to die. Her best friend and central trainer, Jules, is one of the most powerful naturalists in centuries and even has a mountain cat as a familiar. Arsinoe is incredibly loyal and desires nothing more than to escape her fate. I suspect the inspiration behind Arsinoe’s character comes from Arsinoe IV of Egypt, sister to Cleopatra VII. Arsinoe IV was murdered by her sister, which does not bode well for me for Arsinoe in the novel.
Mirabella is an elemental queen, which means she can wield the elements, such as fire, water, wind and lightning. Mirabella is the strongest queen and the central contender for the crown. Her victory is all but confirmed which is why the Temple of the Goddess openly supports Mirabella, even though they are supposed to remain impartial. The Temple wants to seize control from the Arrons to return the Temple to glory and restore the importance of religion. The only issue? Mirabella herself, who dreams of her sisters and the love she still has for them.
What struck me most about this novel is that it is not just focussed on the three queens. We are introduced to the perspective of several other characters, which I found exceedingly interesting. We are not just witnessing the rise of three queens; we are also shown the realities of politics and power: who has it, who wants it, and what people will do in order to retain it. Alliances are formed and clandestine promises are brokered to support one queen above the others. The royals are not the ones in charge here: they are basically puppets, controlled by scheming adults, who seek to gain and influence power, quietly and in the shadows.
The world-building was clever and fantastic. The world of Fennbirn was fascinating and complex and I especially loved reading about the previous queens. The magical elements were intriguing and I was captivated by its role in the world, both through goddess-blessed gifts and low magic. Blake’s writing was beautiful and poetic, and I easily lost myself in the words of the novel. She effortlessly creates and sustains tension, which was the driving force of the novel. There was not one moment where I felt safe; every scene was infused with emotion and suspense, especially the ending. I think I was an emotional wreck for the last few chapters.
Relationships and friendships are a central part of the novel. Even though befriending a queen is akin to “befriending a cow on its way to slaughter,” the friendships gained are strong and loyal. I was impressed by the strong female friendships developed and how willing the girls are to help out a friend, no matter the consequences. There is, however, a minor love triangle, which I know many readers find tiresome and unoriginal, but trust me when I say it is not one you will see coming or expect. I am curious to see where it will go in the next book.
Three Dark Crowns is a book that will have people invested. It is quite slow at the beginning, especially for a book with such dark themes, but it is well worth the perseverance. There are twists and turns peppered throughout the novel, a dash of romance and plenty of heart-stopping angst. The first novel essentially sets up the world of Fennbirn and the triplet’s lives, while the second book will undoubtedly focus on the battle for the crown. In Three Dark Crowns a dark fantasy world has been created, one that I can’t wait to learn more of in the next novel.