Disappointed Expectations; But Can’t Wait for Book 2

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Title: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
Type: Fiction
Genre: YA; Fantasy
Length: 398 pages
Published by: Harper Teen
Pub Date: Sept 20, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: I bought this book for my own library from Barnes and Noble

See other ratings and reviews on Goodreads, then check out the author’s website!

When kingdom come, there will be one. 

As this awesome tagline suggests, Three Dark Crowns deals with some darker ideas and themes, which is why I knew I just had to read it. The basic rundown: Every queen gives birth to three daughters, each with a specific gift. Mirabella is an elemental, the most powerful of this set of triplets, able to summon fire, storms, earthquake, etc. at will. Katharine is a poisoner; she can consume poisons and be unharmed, and she’s also been trained to concoct some crazy painful (or merciful) deaths for others. Arsinoe is a naturalist, a person who can control animals and convince plants to bloom. EpicReads has created this great chart for each of the sisters.

As born queens, these three are destined for the crown… once they kill the other two sisters. When I first cracked open the cover, I was expecting a book full of dark secrets, political intrigue, and some good old fashioned battles to the death. And that’s what I got… sort of.

Let me start by saying this book is well-written; Kendare Blake is a master at structuring her novel. Despite the fact that each chapter tells the story of a different sister, they all flow together pretty seamlessly. At the end of each one, something would happen that made me feel like I had to keep reading.

I enjoyed reading Katharine’s sections; she’s all-around interesting, and I am dying to know in which direction her character will go in future books, and how her relationship with Pietyr will develop. The romance between Pietyr and Katharine seemed a little forced; I like the two as individual characters, but they fall in love after two or three chapters. I think Blake just needed to take some time developing the relationship. Because of some events that happen later in the novel, I think she had a major character shift at the end, and while I’ll still be super interested in her character in the next book, I’ll also be a little afraid of her, too.

Arsinoe’s sections were probably my favorite. I might be a little biased because I’m a bit of an outdoorsy girl myself, but her storyline seemed the most believable to me (and the naturalist powers are probably the ones I would choose for myself if I could). The actions she took because of her frustrations with her gift lined up with her character and the setting, and her friendship with Jules was the most natural, believable, and well-developed friendship in the story.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where my appreciation of the characters ends. To me, Mirabella just seemed a little flat. The only thing that interest me about her was that she still had memories about her early life an her sisters. Because she’s the most powerful sister, there weren’t really a lot of conflicts for her to overcome, and instead just caused a lot of unnecessary problems. Although I did enjoy her friendship with Elizabeth, it seemed like all of her friendships needed to be more fleshed out.

To be honest, all the relationships, with maybe the exception of Arsinoe and Jules, need some work. (**SPOILERS ARE ABOUT TO HAPPEN! SEVERAL SPOILERS**) For example, the whole thing with Joseph and Mirabella. It just turned me off to both of their characters, and just didn’t fit in with the story. I get that you can try to blame it on Arsinoe’s magic use, but it still just seemed really forced to me. And the friendship between Mirabella and Elizabeth also didn’t make a whole lot of sense. During their first or second meeting, the priestess reveals some information that could get her kicked out of the temple, then offers to help Mirabella escape, loses her hand for it, and then still puts herself at risk for the queen. A friendship like that needed WAY more development than it was given, and just puled me out of the story a bit.

*These are kind of spoilers, but they’re super non-specific* Overall, I think my biggest issue with the book stems from the fact that there isn’t really a villain. Kendare Blake talks about her decisions about villains and characters a little in this interview, but honestly, I don’t think it paid off. I was expecting this big showdown between the queens, but they don’t even meet in any meaningful way until about the last third of the book.Because of this, a lot of the Game of Thrones-like espionage I was hoping for was mostly turned into boy drama for the sake of creating movement in the story. For me, this made the story move so slowly until group finally meets up for the festival that prepares the queens for their fight to the death.

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Despite the fact that the story moves pretty slowly up until the end, the last third of the book  was AMAZING! I’m pretty sure I flew through it in about an hour because I couldn’t put it down. (***SPOILERS, QUESTIONS, AND SPECULATION AHEAD***) I can’t wait to see how the queens and the Council deal with Arsinoe and Katharine being placed with the wrong families; there’s some great espionage opportunities there. And what Katharine is going to do to Pietyr; I’m ready for that girl to show her bad-assery. Maybe Pietyr knew Arsinoe was the poisoner and tried to help her by pushing Katharine off the cliff? But two of my biggest questions are 1) What is this religion; what do they believe? Because there was a lot of killing/sacrificing/maiming going on for your typical priestesses. What is it that they believe that justifies all this? 2) It’s mentioned several times that the mainland is forgetting about the island. Is the island self-sufficient enough to handle this? How do people forget about an entire island? What are they going to do when they don’t have king-consorts because the mainland has completely forgotten?

Three Dark Crowns kind of read like a prequel, and while a lot of it was uninteresting at first, I am SOOO ready to see where the story goes now that the queens are going all out; I will definitely be preordering the next book. There’s a small part of me that hope Mira will somehow use her memories to convince the other two not to hurt each other, because I’ve grown rather attached to them and don’t know who to root for, but at the same time, I am ready to see each of the gifts used to their fullest potential. Let me know who you are rooting for in the comments!

Overall, I gave Three Dark Crowns 3 Stars: