Three Dark Crowns was released on September 20th, 2016 by Harperteen. Price varies depending on what platform you buy from: kindle price $9.99, Amazon prime (hardcover) $10.58 and in most stores $17.99. Three Dark Crowns is a pretty good size book, a total of 416 pages. Genre wise it could be considered a dark, fantasy, sibling Young Adult book.
Cover: Three Dark Crowns has a black jacket covering the hardcover, I didn't think it was very eye catching at first until you flip over to the front and see the crowns. The first crown is covered flowers and greenery, a very demure looking crown. The second crown is more sharp and angular with smoke and fire coming over it with a few jewels added. You know whoever wears this crown isn't someone you want to mess with. The third and final crown is a simple diadem with some green jewels, what makes the crown interesting is that there are several snakes slithering around it. Not my favorite depiction of a crown but it looks dangerous. Without the slip jacket on, the book is a pretty maroon color with black edging. Towards the top front cover is three little gold symbols: a leaf, fire and a fleur de lis. I really love when authors add something a little extra to their hardcovers because let's be real, someone isn't ALWAYS going to keep the jacket cover on when reading a book. Overall, the cover is very beautiful and mysterious; I think it would catch my attention in a book store so A+.
Description (from Amazon): 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. (inside the front jacket cover)
On the back of the book: Three dark queens 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.
Instantly I was intrigued by the description of the book and the poem. I was also interested in reading this book because I adore unique names; personally I feel like characters are remembered more when the authors gives them interesting names. Do you honestly think if Katniss' name was changed to Emily or Marie that people would automatically think of the Hunger Games? Maybe, but a name like Katniss was definitely a standout and will forever be referred to as the girl on fire. Back to Three Dark Crowns before I ramble some more about names!
The Story: Three Dark Crowns is based on an island called Fennbirn which inhabits different kinds of people. When first reading the book learning the descriptions of the different people, it reminded me how families have houses on Game of Thrones. For example, the three sisters live with three different groups of people with special abilities. One sister lives with people who are obsessed with poison, another lives with people who value nature and relationships with animals. The last sister resides with people who praise weather and old religious traditions. Three sisters, different houses with different killing methods. Three Dark Crowns starts off exactly like the description says; each chapter comes from a different sister and details her life along with the people the sister surrounds herself with. The first time we meet each sister it starts with their sixteenth birthday December 21st, four months from Beltane which is where the three Queens and sisters will meet to show off their skills and one will become Queen while the other two will perish. Whoever comes out on top will become Queen along with the people that support her. For example, Katharine is the Queen of toxins and poisons so she is supposed to use her poison gift to kill her sisters. As for the pace of the book, I honestly thought that Three Dark Crowns would be fast paced upon reading the first chapter. It's immediately all their birthdays and their destiny is only four months away. However, Blake took her time in getting to the sister's destinies. For the majority of the book the reader gets to learn about how each sister lives, her pros and cons for being Queen and those who are by each Queen's side in supporting her. While I enjoyed getting to know each sister, their issues, strengths and weaknesses along the way, I felt the ending of the book was a bit rushed. It was BAM, this happened and oh this needs to be added too! Although the book ended with Blake kinda hinting at a second book, so if that's the case I'm okay with the somewhat rushed ending if there will be more. Besides getting to know the sisters, the twists that happen in the book are enjoyable and interesting. Honestly a Young Adult book can't be a Young Adult book unless there's a love triangle and the triangle that played out in Three Dark Crowns...just awkward and wow. While the pace of the book frustrated me at times, the twists made me want to keep reading it. The biggest twist of all at the end of Three Dark Crowns had me speechless. I won't spoil it but the last twist had me asking so many questions. So hopefully there will be another book to this series.
Characters: The Queens and sisters are named Katharine, Mirabella and Arsinoe. Katharine is the Poison Queen, Mirabella is the Queen of Weather (in the book called an Elemental) and Arsinoe is the Queen of plants and animals, a Naturalist. What I really enjoyed about getting to know all three sisters is the fact that not all of them are strong or considered "Queen worthy." When someone calls another Queen, you automatically think of the person as being strong and powerful right? Why would they give a character the title of Queen if they weren't strong? To my pleasant surprise, only one of the sisters is powerful while the other two to struggle. Katharine may be good with her poisons, but after years and years of being poisoned she is weak looking, covering in horrible scabs that she had to endure because of taking poison. Side note: I found it a little odd that in order for Katharine to become Queen and to be approved by her people, that she had to learn to withstand poison and not die? Really? You want her to rule Fennbirn but you poison her so much she's nothing but bones and looks meek? All righty then.
I like Katharine the most out of the three sisters, I believe she had the best character development. The Poison Queen isn't exactly the best job on Fennbirn; the people that "care" for her and train her are absolute jerks. In the beginning of Three Dark Crowns, Kat is weak, shy and doesn't really have everything the Poison Queen is supposed to have. Not to mention she is under a lot of pressure because for last hundred years, the Poison Queen has always been the one to survive over the other two sisters. No pressure there...not. Back to what I said in the beginning of this blog post about Blake pushing the Young Adult boundaries. And this is also in regards to Katharine as well. Most Young Adult books don't show violence and if they do the violence is very toned down, but in Three Dark Crowns Katharine is abused by her caretakers. She's beaten down from all the poisons she's taken over the years and the women who are supposed to care for her and groom her into becoming Queen are ruthless, violent, mean spirited women. Geneviere is especially nasty to Kat, always poking and prodding her about how skinny and ugly she is. Although I cringed a bit when reading how Kat was sometimes abused both physically and mentally, I thought it was very brave that Blake wrote this in a Young Adult book. Not everything can be sunshine and rainbows and I wish more Young Adult authors would write like Blake. My favorite aspect of Kat was when she gets involved with her caretaker's nephew and seems to flourish and blossom because of it, all because she's getting some positive attention over abuse. She's a completely different person by the end of Three Dark Crowns and I loved watching her grow.
Arsinoe is also another character I enjoyed reading about. The naturalist powers are very cool, I loved the whole aspect of having an animal as a partner or familiar to different characters. Arsinoe really doesn't seem to care that she doesn't have any naturalist abilities, she worries a bit but doesn't seem too broken hearted over the fact that nothing is coming to her. She is considered the weakest of three Queens but keeps an upbeat attitude about it. I also enjoyed her determination to do something to protect herself at Beltane, no matter what the cost.
Mirabelle is the strongest Queen with the powers of an Elemental. I have a love hate relationship with her because to be, she has the best situation out of all the sisters. Mira has a pretty good connection with her gift and besides getting tired from it, has the highest chance of surviving Beltane. She may be constantly followed by the people that support her, but she isn't abused like Kat and she isn't gifted or called weak like Arsinoe is. She was cared for and surrounded by several people very dear to her, so why the heck is she constantly complaining over something? ****Spoiler ahead! Not to mention the fact that she kinda stole her sister's friend's guy, yes she didn't know who was at first but I mean come on. Is getting lovey dovey with someone you just met really a good idea? *** end of spoilers.
I didn't like the fact that her supporters thought it was normal to sacrifice people on her behalf, at least she showed that it bothered her..but still, you're a Queen pretty sure you could of stopped that from happening.
That is one of my biggest issues with all three Queens! Yes they are young teenagers but why are they letting all the people around them bully and boss them around? They are Queens, shouldn't they be running the show and not their caretakers? None of them may not be the #1 Queen yet but the girls are still Queens, so act like it. Goodness.
Honorable mentions for some supporting characters: Pietyr, Natalia and Jules.
I didn't trust Pietyr at first and to be honest I still don't trust him even though I finished the book, but I enjoyed how he helped Katharine grow personally. He's seem shifty but by falling in love with Kat that shiftness seems to melt a little, just a bit though. I could not STAND Natalia at the beginning of Three Dark Crowns. She was rough with Kat at times and kept things from her which annoyed me because coddling someone is never the answer, especially when that someone is supposed to be Queen. She became a little bit more likable at the end of the book, not by much though.
Jules is my favorite supporting character in Three Dark Crowns. I thought it was interesting that she was much stronger than Arsinoe and was her protector. I love her familiar and I love how the connection was portrayed between the two. Unfortunately she doesn't have the best luck when it comes to love and I'm hoping if there will be another book so I can see how that scenario plays out more in detail.
Overall thoughts: I wasn't sure what I would think of this book when I started reading it, but I enjoyed it a lot. The plot was slow at first but as the twists started to happen I found Three Dark Crowns easier to read. It might take a few chapters to really get hooked onto the story but it's worth it in the end. This is also a perfect book to read during October or curl up with in the upcoming fall/winter months. I look forward to Kendare Blake's next book, which will hopefully be a sequel to Three Dark Crowns.
My rating: 4/5 shells