Three Dark Crowns by YA horror/fantasy author Kendare Blake is another book I need more stars for. Ten kinds of excellent, and now I understand why so many Goodreads users are asking for the next book. I can’t blame them, because it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. Detailed, expertly crafted, sly, brutal, and completely unique, this book defied my expectations and took me on a wild journey that I’ll not soon forget. And things are just getting started for this series. While the ruthlessness of this book might be hard for some people to stomach (no pun intended), if you think you can handle backstabbing, bloody, betrayals, this is a book you need to read yesterday.
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
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.
While there isn’t much for the plot of the story (basically a string of events and plots leading to one hell of a finale), the world building and character building is absolutely stellar. Each of the three kingdoms is unique and artfully created. This is one of the most ruthless worlds I’ve read about in fantasy fiction––think being a queen leaves our main characters free from abuse and harm? Think again!––and I loved every aspect of it. The sisters face devious trials and dangers even before they reach the finale, which had me biting my nails down to the quick and took shocking twists. And there were lots. Honestly, so many surprises that I could never see coming and that had me re-flipping pages because I couldn’t believe a certain event occurred. Or was about to occur, because the story is told in present tense which makes the reader far more invested in the story and brought me deeper into every event and conspiracy.
The queens are well developed and diverse characters, with Jules added as the “mystery” character, who I suspect has a greater story to be discovered thanks to her monumental talents. Katharine is arguably the most sympathetic as the poisoner queen, who isn’t very strong with her talent. She endures a painful amount of abuse, but she is nothing if not strong-willed, determined, and devious. Arisnoe is one tough girl with a fierce heart and a stubborn will, and her story is going to explode to life in this fall’s sequel, One Dark Throne. Mirabella, my favourite sister, suffered from having the biggest heart. Her story took a surprising turn in terms of romance (by the way, all the romantic interests are fantastic), and I only want to read more about her.
While I’m a big fan of Kendare Blake and loved the story for everything it is, it was the very last chapter that cemented me. There is an EPIC twist and while it’s a bit of a cliffhanger, it’s one that won’t have me screaming with terror. It opens the door to a thousand different possibilities that I can only speculate at. Blake knocked it out of the part in this one, and I seriously cannot wait to see what happens in the next book. Honestly, I could talk about it all day. This is an absolute must read.