Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1), Kendare Blake

“I want revenge,” she whispers, and her fingers trail bloody streaks down Natalia’s arms. “And then I want my crown”

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.

* * 

2 / 5

The premise of this book is simple: a set of triplets is born on Fennbirn every generation. When these girls come of age, at sixteen, they have a year for one girl to become Queen via the murder of her two sisters. I thought I was going to get a book rife with violence, intrigue and deception, and most of all murder, but Three Dark Crowns isn’t that book, it’s the book before that book and it’s kind of misleading. 

In her mind, every last Queen lies at the bottom of the sea, drowned by the Goddess the moment she was done with them

Before we have a free-for-all murder spree, there must be a festival, a presentation of suitors to the three queens, a hunt, a feast, and a demonstration of power. Only then may the three women attempt to kill each other off, which is where this book ends. I did feel a bit cheated, to say the least. The beginning, however, was quite good. The initial impression that I got was this book is quite complex: there’s three young women, each with their own lives and their own foster families and their own troubles. It’s sort of like three books in one, because Blake devotes time to each of the three equally, and despite the reasonably high page count (about 400 in my copy), it’s really quite a short book given the larger font and line spacing. 
The isle of Fennbirn is blessed with five types of magic: seers are drowned at birth, driven mad by prophecy; warriors have power over weapons and great rage; naturalists can bond with animals and have familiars; poisoners can ingest any poison and yet remain unharmed; elementals have power over elements. Our three queens are:
  • Mirabella, the most powerful queen, an elemental who can command almost all elements is favoured by the religious order, the council
  • Katherine, the weakest and perhaps most pitiable of the three, a poisoner who seems to show no gift at all. Unfortunately for her, one can build up a tolerance to poison and she is virtually tortured by her foster family
  • Arsinoe, a wild girl and my favourite of the trio, a naturalist who can barely make a flower bloom. She is expected to die easily and quickly

Each magic type belongs to a group of people who reside in a certain area. If, for example, a naturalist takes the throne then the naturalists reside in the capital and command the government, and so each queen is trained by her people as part of a bid to take power. Katherine, whilst weak, is preceded by three poisoner queens, so her people will go to any lengths to retain power. 

“But you are not a monster”

“No. But that doesn’t change what we have to do” 

I did actually quite like each woman. They are distinct, yet likeable, and are easy to pity: Katherine for her virtual torture, Mirabella for her expectations and gentleness, Arsinoe for her guilt. There is, however, a big cast such that it is difficult to keep track of everyone and this resulted in a general lack of interest: who on earth is Cait, I thought, oh she’s the sister of the boyfriend, oh no wait the mother of the friend, or is it the grandmother?? The writing was also lacking for me. There were lots of twists and turns, betrayals and dreams and hopes, but it inspired nothing in me. The writing was too simple, too lacking in passion to make me care. The characters were too changeable in their romances and allegiances and desires, it virtually gave me whiplash. And seriously, don’t get me started on the romances. 
What I did like was the spark of imagination in this book! Katharine in particular interested me; elementals and nature-lovers are a pound a penny in fantasy novels, but a poisoner is something new! It also toyed with quite a few interesting questions: are these girls blessed by the goddess? Hated? Which one will get the courage, the strength to kill the others? Who wants this crown the most? But what was really missing from Three Dark Crowns, for me, was the emotion. I really wanted it to make me feel, to have my heart torn between these girls, to watch them grow darker with blood on their hands and grief in their hearts. But alas. 

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