Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
“Three dark queens
are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends.
Three dark sisters
all fair to be seen,
two to devour
and one to be Queen.”
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is one of those books that slowly burns its way through you. I’ve read some negative comments regarding the romance plot lines (let’s be serious, it’s a YA novel so there’s bound to be at least one) and how “slow” this book moves while containing two dimensional main characters. I, however, disagree with these naysayers (maybe not so much about the romance) because this book is the perfect setup for a dark series. I felt many people were only disappointed by the reality of the book due to their expectations about what they thought the book should be. That doesn’t make a book bad though!
Three Dark Crowns fits the typical fantasy novel scheme of frontloading - this is where most people will become frustrated. If you want action and only action from the get go, then this book won’t be for you. We follow three sisters, the Queens, as they reach their sixteenth year. The three will battle until only one lives, becoming the next true Queen and restarting the cycle (she will have triplets, they will grow up and fight, one becomes Queen, repeat). To aid in these battles, each Queen has her own powers: one is a naturalist (controls plants and animals), one an elemental (controls earth, fire, water, and air), and one a poisoner (immune to poison, trained in poisons). The first part of the book sets up the whole process of each Queen as she mentally prepares to begin a year of battle and survival, which explains the slow start - it’s necessary to set up the Blake’s world.
More intriguing to me, though, is that the book isn’t only about the Queens in the long run; they are just figureheads for powerful families. While we mostly see the perspective of the Queens, the true story takes place with the families surrounding them. How have those families influenced each Queen’s upbringing? Why is Katharine so timid, Mirabella so angry, and Arsinoe so lacking in confidence? Like I said, this is a slow burning book, so we see the Queens slowly grow to realize their roles on the island and their manipulation by their “loving” families. Is their fate truly to kill one another?
Overall, I’d give this 5 out of 5 Awesome Austin Points and highly suggest reading the next book in the series (the third book was recently published on September 4, 2018 and a fourth slated for 2019 publication). If you like dark fantasy, political wars, and some unexpected twists and turns, then this is definitely the book for you! - Austin (Resident YA Expert)
[In case you missed my last reviews on Scythe by Neal Shusterman and The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, this is Review #3 of my Top Five picks (in no particular order) from the 2018-2019 Gateway Readers Award Nominees. There’s information on the award here and the Top 15 books here. The committee always welcomes volunteer readers!]