Three Dark Crowns (Untitled, # 1)
By: Kendare Blake
Published: September 20th 2016 by HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!!)
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Goodreads description--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.
If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.
I was instantly intrigued by the description of Three Dark Crowns. Three sisters with magical powers fight until only one is left standing to claim the crown and the throne. I was pulled in immediately. But once approved, I didn't pick this book up immediately due to the publication date being a few months in the future. As the publication date approached, I started seeing ratings come through and they weren't very high. My excitement level dropped immensely and I put off reading Three Dark Crowns. I did pick it up but only read a page or two before deciding that it wasn't pulling me in enough and putting it back down. I realize that's not enough time really to allow a book to pull me in or not, but I'm such a mood reader. I featured Three Dark Crowns in a couple of posts mentioning that I still needed to get around to reading it, and every person that commented on it told me that it had a slow start but that the book ends in a place where you want to know more. And that's exactly my experience with it.
Since several advised me to push through the beginning, I figured that I should do just that and give Three Dark Crowns another try. I don't think it helped that chapter 1 is about Katherine (the poisoner) who turned out to be my least favorite of the three sisters. Yet, it wasn't too long before I found myself interested in what was going on and how things would progress. Three Dark Crowns was interesting but not devouring. The book swaps between the three sisters. I feel like it was written in a way that perhaps Kendare Blake is trying to lead the reader to root for Arsinoe, but Mirabella ended up being my favorite I think.
Side note: Arsinoe...I kept reading this as Arisnoe. Ugh. I'm all about unique names, but I don't like when a name is so unique that I can't pronounce it correctly. I told Husband that I don't know if I struggle with a little bit of dyslexia or if I'm just trying to read too fast to stop and parse out names that I'm unfamiliar with. As such, I knew I was pronouncing her name wrong, yet I couldn't stop myself. And this took me out of the story so frequently while reading this book which I find entirely frustrating. So just a personal pet peeve.
Back to what I was saying, I could be wrong, but I felt like there were more chapters dedicated to Arsinoe than the other queens. I struggled with figuring out who to root for because I felt sorry for each of these characters. Katherine and Arsinoe are both powerless, although they and the families they're living with are both trying to keep that a secret from the rest of the island. Katherine should be a poisoner--meaning she should be immune to poisons--so she's regularly submitted to a multitude of poisons in hopes of bringing out her gift or at least developing a tolerance or immunity to them. She was subjected to cruelty often. Arsinoe is supposed to be a naturalist which means that she can make plants grow as well as have an animal familiar with some level of control over most other animals. But no familiar has ever show up and she's never made anything grow. Yet the family fostering her seems to genuinely love her and accept her as part of them despite not having a gift. Mirabella is the only sister who actually manages to access her gift. She's an elemental. She also seems to have been gifted to a fairly warm environment with her foster family. She has close friends. At the same time, the temple and the priestesses have chosen her as their queen over her sisters. Never before has the temple been so sided before. Yet the temple isn't as they appear. They have an agenda and Mirabella is a pawn. So you can see that each has something rooting against them which makes them endearing on some level. None of the sisters relish having to kill the others. Katherine is the one that might lean towards it the most, but that isn't surprising given the cruelty that she's been subjected to. None of the sisters seem inherently evil. So all that to say that choosing a side was difficult.
One of my favorite parts of any book is the hope that the main character will find love. And well...this wasn't a large part of Three Dark Crowns. Even though romance isn't required for me to enjoy a book, it does help immensely. Katherine is presented with Pietyr as a tutor to help her learn how to flirt with the potential suitors (all three sisters face the same suitors). Katherine can't help but fall for Pietyr and it appears that he feels the same way. Yet these two aren't supposed to be together. Knowing this up front kept me from connecting to the two as a couple. Arsinoe meets one of the potential suitors very early on and the two develop a definite friendship, but at this point it appears to be nothing more than that. And Mirabella meets and feels an insta-connection with a friend of Arsinoe who happens to be in love with Arsinoe's best friend, Jules. This was the relationship that I felt the most spark and connection to. However, moving forward for these two will be messy, and I'm not sure how much I can support it given that Joseph chooses to move forward with Jules. This area left me wanting a bit more. I hope that One Dark Throne pursues the romances a bit more.
Without discussing the actual events of the book in any more detail as I'm afraid I've probably given too much away as it is, I will say that there was one twist (betrayal) that I didn't see coming, and there was one twist that was supposed to be pretty substantial that I did see from early on. That left me with yes being intrigued and interested to see how things continue to play out, but perhaps not quite as dying for book 2 as I could have been. I do hope that One Dark Throne has a much better pacing and not such a slow start. Three Dark Crowns was enjoyable. I want to know more. But I wasn't dying to keep reading or to jump immediately into book 2 (although I did choose to go ahead and start One Dark Crown upon finishing this one). I liked the characters for the most part but struggled with deciding who to root for. In the end, Three Dark Crowns gets 3.5 Stars from me. Have you read Three Dark Crowns? What did you think? Let me know!