“In 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. “
My Thoughts: I knew I was going to enjoy Kendare Blake’s latest series when she was talking and describing her inspiration during a BEA panel. She has a wicked sense of humor and a macabre side that instantly attracted me to her thought processes. The idea of a story involving three young girls who must fight each other to the death to be crowned Queen is a story that I knew I had to read; it also meant I set fairly high expectations for it.
Thankfully, Three Dark Crowns more than lives up to those expectations. It is an impressive story with plenty of action, drama, and a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. Each of the girls gets plenty of page time, showing the environments in which they were raised as well as the political machinations stirring the pot behind all the pageantry. One gets a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses and gets to know them well enough that they become more than characters on a page. This makes it difficult to choose a favorite even though you know that you should because, after all, the story requires one victor.
Because it is a fantasy novel set in a fictitious island of Fennbirn, there is the need for much world-building. Ms. Blake does most of this by incorporating it into the action itself, explaining the geography through the political factions and describing the outside world through the mainland suitors who come to woo each of the princesses. Some readers might want a little more background knowledge about Fennbirn and the customs involved with crowning a Queen, but readers learn just enough to understand the story. This is only the first book in a series, so there is always hope that Ms. Blake will expound upon her world in future novels.
The only niggling area of concern is the predictability of the story. I, personally, did not mind that I could sense the direction the story was heading in advance because I remained so fascinating by the three girls themselves and the dangerous situations in which they exist. Ms. Blake still managed to surprise me with a few twists, and the ending made me want to give a standing ovation. However, I can see some readers finding fault with this and dismissing the entire series as a result. In my opinion, to do so would be to miss out on an exciting story with three outstanding heroines.
Three Dark Crowns is a different story. Yes, there is a fight to the death, which we have seen in YA many times. However, because you get to know all three girls intimately, the stakes seem higher than in those previous novels. There is also the issue of what is at stake. This is not a fight to the death to assuage a malicious government, a psychological game, or other such agenda. There is a religious element to it that ties directly to the magic of the island; while they might not buy the religious aspects of it, the girls understand that this is their purpose in life. They believe in the sanctity of the process. It is a different mindset and one that separates Three Dark Crowns from its competitors.
I tore through Three Dark Crowns and have been gushing about it ever since I finished it. Ms. Blake’s latest is the type of novel I knew I wanted to purchase a permanent copy for my home library. I thought of several friends who I knew would love it, and I immediately wanted to give a copy to my daughter because she loves this type of story. With the constant shadow of pending death that surrounds each of the girls, the tone is dark and unsettling. However, Ms. Blake weaves lightness into the dark through the sweetness of each girl, levity in the form of good friends, and a sense of hope that the right girl will win. With its highly imaginative story line, excellent execution, and outstanding conclusion, Three Dark Crowns is one of the best books I have read all summer.