Three Dark Crowns – Review
Title: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: YA Fantasy
Three Dark Crowns is an inventive & intriguing novel with a fantastic dark premise centred around the lives of triplet queens. The queens are separated as children in order for them to compete for the throne when they reach the age of sixteen, with the world watching and waiting, knowing that after the ascension year only one sister will survive. Each sister is placed in the care of a different family who reflects the magical abilities that each queen possesses. The story opens as the triplets reach their sixteenth birthday.
Katharine, the youngest and frailest sister is a poisoner. She is brought up by the Arron family in the dark and Gothic setting of Greavesdrake Manor. As a poisoner Katharine is expected to be able to consume vast amounts of varying poisons without coming to harm as well as being able to mix her own poisonous concoctions to kill or punish her enemies. Poisoner queens have sat on the throne for multiple generations, allowing the Arrons’ vast political influence with many seats on the Black Council. Katharine is expected to continue their strong tradition but not all is going to plan…. It is very easy to sympathise with Katharine’s plight and she has amazing character progression! I can’t say more because of spoilers but she is a very cool character.
Arsinoe is a naturalist, who is raised in the peaceful port town of Wolf Spring by the Malone family. She a lovely, down-to-earth character and has an fantastic best friend in Jules, the Malone’s daughter. Jules’ strong naturalist gift is evident as she has a formidable animal familiar, a mountain cat called Camden. Like her younger sister, Arsinoe is struggling with her gift and there is a lot of doubt as to whether she will survive the ascension year. I really enjoyed Arsinoe’s tom-boyish charm and the way she interacts with her friends. Besides, who doesn’t love an underdog?
Mirabella is a powerful elementalist. Everyone in her town of Rolanth believes her to be blessed and destined to become the next heir to the throne. Mira as a character is a slow burner but comes into her own as the story develops. She is very thoughtful, shyer than her sisters and, despite her vast power, she feels very human. Her friends Elizabeth and Bree are nice supporting characters and they offer a different dynamic to that of Arsinoe with her friends.
As the reader moves from chapter to chapter the narrative cleverly switches between the three queens, which gives a deeper insight into their individual lives and helps to create empathy towards each of them. This writing style decision is so important to the novel as the premise is that only one queen can survive and as a reader you feel like you have to pick a side. I found the switching third person perspectives refreshing. It makes the book easy to pick up and put down, which is great if you want to read in shorter bursts. There are times when I wanted to keep reading because I was really interested in what was happening with a particular queen but I had to stop myself from skipping ahead and instead read chronologically. I think it would be very interesting to read through the book from an individual perspective and I will definitely give it a go the next time I pick up Three Dark Crowns.
The book, particularly the first half, is a bit slow. This is partially due to the switching perspectives between chapters but also because you enter the story at the point when the queens are preparing for upcoming events rather than straight into the action. The last third of the book definitely picks up steam as you dive into the real action and I love the way the the book concludes. There are several twists in the book. I had predicted the main plot twist but I know a lot of people were very surprised. The question that really drove me to keep reading was how many queens would be left standing by the end of the book and the dark undertone created by that was very exciting throughout.
I really enjoyed Three Dark Crowns and immediately picked up the sequel One Dark Throne. There are a lot of well thought-out and interesting characters. The world building is complex but really well done. Every setting is different and gives you a wonderful look at very different parts of the same world. The history and politics add a lot of depth and intrigue. I would recommend this book to any YA Fantasy fans who want something a little different, particularly if you enjoy dystopia or character-driven narratives. If you are the sort of person who likes to jump to straight into the action and wants to read something fast-paced then this book is probably not for you.
To please the avid book collector the paperback comes with three different covers, one to represent each queen, as shown in the pictures above. I love them all but I think Katharine’s snake crown is my favourite, although I am sure that one day I will own all three! If you read or have read Three Dark Crowns let me know who your favourite queen is and what creature you would pick to be your familiar!