Monday, October 10, 2016

ARC Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Title: Three Dark Crowns
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1
Written by: Kendare Blake
Published: September 27, 2016 by Henry Holt Co (Macmillan)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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 received an advance copy of this book from the publisher at BEA in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

As most of you know, I love dark fantasy with interesting magical systems and heavy political intrigue. This hit all the boxes so I was really excited to read. But I'm not sure if Three Dark Crowns is not at all what I expected or exactly what I expected. But I do know one thing, that was a really strong ending and I ended up really liking it.

This is one of those fantasy books that is heavy on the political intrigue and I have to say, that is fine with me. I was definitely intrigued by the concept of three queens, triplets, who have to compete for the crown and ultimately kill the other two. That in and of itself was interesting but there is more to it then that. There is a lot more complex court politics at play here with ruling families all helping to make sure their queen ends up with the crown. It made for a thoroughly interesting story as it unfolded.

But, it unfolded very slowly. This is not at all a fast-paced read. It takes it's sweet time getting to the good stuff. Most of the book is just exposition until the last fifty pages or so which give you the bulk of the plot development. There are some interesting scenes along the way including a few twists and turns but for the most part it just very slowly build to the conclusion. And somehow that worked. It made for a suspenseful and unexpected ending when it did finally reach that climax. To be entirely honest I wast wasn't even sure I was connecting with the story until it was all over.

I think a lot of what did connect me to the story though, and one of the reasons that I was invested in the story in the end, was the characters. This is a book with a big cast of characters. And in general I did find it hard to keep the secondary characters straight. There are a lot of those ruling families that I mentioned and I couldn't remember who was who and I honestly just gave up trying to remember who was who. But as far as the main characters go, they were fantastic. Each of the queens was complex and interesting. They walked the line between good and evil trying to survive and succeed in unexpected ways, it was really interesting. And Kendare Blake did a great job of making them each likable and sympathetic. Throughout the book my favorite, the one I wanted to succeed changed so many times and I think that is a testament to how great the characterizations were in this book.

However, one of the things I didn't totally love about this book though was the world. Don't get me wrong, it was an interesting setting and there were some magical elements that I liked but on the whole it just felt like an afterthought. Magic existed in this world and there are magic users we just didn't see much of it. I think for me when it came to the world building this was a case of less is less. I wanted more. I wanted to know more about why they have different types of magic and how they preform said magic. I wanted to learn more about the culture and history of this world and I just didn't get that. I'm hoping that's coming in the sequel.

On the whole, Three Dark Crowns was an interesting read. It is definitely a more slowly paced read with less magic and more politics but with likable characters and a great ending. I am really interested to see where the series goes though because I am kind of invested now.

I give Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. This was a good read but I think it's probably one of those books where it's better to wait and marathon the whole series. But this ended up being a good read I would recommend it to YA fantasy fans.


  1. I've heard so many mixed reviews for this one and I'm sad (but not surprised) to see that you didn't love it. The slow pace would definitely bother me too. I need things to happen somewhat steadily to stay interested! I'm glad to hear that the main characters worked though! Great review :D

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. Yeah, as you know I am also very much a plot driven reader. I need things to kick in quickly too. I think this is the first book in a trilogy so it just had a lot of exposition. I can forgive first books for that though.

  2. Great review! I can't wait to try it. :)

    1. I hope you like it Lauren. It ended up being a really good read.