Three Dark Crowns

23207027by Kendare Blake
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

This is a book that won me over despite intense skepticism on my part. (Thanks for the rec Erin!) There’s a lot of royal competitions to the death right now, and I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to hop on board. Yet after a few chapters I found myself flipping the pages as fast as I could!

Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe are triplet princesses who have grown up estranged because on their 16th birthday, they will begin a fight to the death for the throne. Mirabella is a powerful elemental that can control fire, earth, water, or air. Katharine is a poisoner, able to ingest any type of deadly plant or chemical with no effect. Arsinoe is a naturalist, skilled with plants and animals.

Except they aren’t all as strong as they say. Katharine has spent a decade building up the most basic immunity to common poisons. Arsinoe can’t make a flower bloom and still lacks her animal familiar. Their courts have done their best to keep their failures a secret, but time is almost out, and everyone assumes Mirabella will take the crown with ease. But the sisters won’t go down without a fight.

These queens and their courts felt distant at first (the third person present voice is colder than Marie Lu’s), but I found myself drawn into their plots and intrigue. I enjoyed this largely because I knew going into the story that this book is a set-up for the fight to the death–which isn’t what the jacket summary would have you think. If I hadn’t known that, I probably would have been frustrated by the seemingly slow lead-in. However, much like interviewing the Tributes made you care about who won the Hunger Games, without this book and getting to know the sisters, I don’t think we would care much about who wins. It does a fantastic job of taking what should be three very unsympathetic girls and having each of them tug your heartstrings in a different way. The girls’ character arcs are surprising and well-drawn.

The island itself is fascinating too, and the mythology surrounding it is addictive! The traditions surrounding the royal family, the backstories of the three princesses, the strange power of the land itself–it’s so atmospheric!

The biggest difficulty for me was the sheer number of POV characters. In addition to the three princesses, several people from each royal court (Elemental, Poisoner, Naturalist) receive their own chapters of scheming. It was hard for me to keep track of everyone until near the end.

This has one of the most intense endings I’ve read this year! The last twenty pages turns everything on its head and made me need the next book so much! In short, this was a pleasant surprise for me and I highly recommend checking it out before next fall’s sequel.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Three Dark Crowns is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Speaking of atmospheric islands with strange magic…Puck and Sean are both determined to win the annual deadly race on water horses to change their lives forever. See my review here.
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – Adelina survived the blood fever with terrible scars and strange powers. She soon learns that others like her are banding together, and she is determined to join them and have revenge for the way she’s been treated. See my review here.
  • The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye – A royal competition to the death to determine who will be the kingdom’s sorcerer.
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel has put off her fate (marriage or military) as long as possible. When she impulsively buys a slave who is not what he seems, her life begins to unravel. See my review here.
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Meira’s whole life has been dedicated to restoring the fallen kingdom of Winter, but she doesn’t know what her true destiny holds in store for her. See my review here.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Mia Corvere has lost her family and her inheritance to corrupt officials. If she can survive initation into the Red Church, she will be one of the most skilled assassins in the land and capable of claiming her revenge. See my review here.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

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