Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Genre: Fiction, young adult, fantasy, dark fantasy, there needs to be more YA novels inspired by bees
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Summary: On the island of Fennbirn, three triplet queens are born, but only one can take the throne. One is an elemental who has control over the four elements, the other is a naturalist, with power over plants and animals, and the third is a poisoner, able to withstand the world’s deadliest poisons. When the time comes, the queens will fight against each other, until only one remains. Who will survive to claim her crown?
Inspired by the world of bees (not the bees!) (yes the bees!), the first book in Kendare Blake’s new duology imagines a world — specifically an island called Fennbirn — in which three royal triplets must fight each other to the death for their throne.
Insert all the Highlander jokes here.
There’s Katharine, the poisoner who is supposed to be able to imbibe the world’s deadliest poisons but cannot keep the simplest concoctions down, Arsinoe, the naturalist who should have control over plants and animals but needs help from witchcraft to do even the smallest magic, and Mirabella, the gifted elemental who has control over all the elements. AKA the Avatar.
Like the bees that inspired them, the three queens in Blake’s story are born into a violent and brutal world where one day they will be forced commit sororicide, which poses a very interesting moral question: when your world is ruled by murderers, is your way of life even worth fighting for?
Short answer: it’s worth fighting to change it, not to keep it. See also: our very disturbing and heinous political situation.
Speaking of politics, at a young age the girls are separated and sent away to be trained by different families on Fennbirn — families who who seek to control the girls for their own nefarious purposes. Think House of Cards meets Game of Thrones, but with a matriarchal society. That’s right, everything in this book (and I mean everything) is run by ladies. Evil ladies sure, but ladies nonetheless.
Poisoner dud Katharine is groomed by the well-to-do Arron family (the Malfoys of Fennbirn), including the beguiling Pietyr who is attempting to make her more appealing to would-be suitors. Powerless Arsinoe is raised in comparative squalor at Wolf Spring by a well-meaning family and their daemons. Powerful Mirabella on the other hand is controlled by the Westwood family and a squadron of priestesses at Rolanth Temple, who are equally if not more evil than the Arrons.
So who’s my favorite queen? Personally I’m team Katharine, not because I think she’s the strongest or even the most stable of the queens, but because I think the poisoners are the most fun. From the over-the-top parties to the dresses, the somehow delicious sounding poisoned feasts and the Arron family’s evil schemes, I looked forward to the Katharine chapters the most.
Coming in a close second is Mirabella and her unrequited love story with a no-good very bad person that should never be forgiven for his pathetic behavior and Arsinoe, who I couldn’t have cared less about until the last chapter in the book. Way to turn things around Arsinoe!
But enough about the main characters and not very much about the 1,000 side ones I couldn’t really keep track of, what about the world-building?
While there was a whole lot of it in this book, I wasn’t able to wrap my head around all of it. For example, how do they determine which triplet has which gift? What happens if and when the mainland stops sending potential king consorts? Why only pull consorts from the mainland? Why get rid of their mother before the queens come of age? How long does a queen even rule for before she’s presumably dispatched of? 2 years tops?
Aside from this confusion and some issues with pacing — because this is what happens when you have completely separate POVs with almost no overlap — I enjoyed the story, which really hit its stride in the last 100 pages.
Even more plot twists and revenge schemes in book two, please and thanks!
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.
- Intriguing plot about a matriarchal society inspired by bees!
- The evil poisoners and all their pomp and circumstance were my faves
- All the ridiculously problematic relationships and their accompanying drama — punish that boy in book two though, for real
- That. Ending.
- This quote: “I want revenge … And then I want my crown.”
- Too many naturalist and not enough poisoner chapters
The Three Dark Crowns duology will conclude on September 19, 2017 with One Dark Throne. On a scale of no bees to all the bees, how excited are you to see how things end?