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Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns #1)

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake // VBC ReviewThree Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1)
Kendare Blake
Published: Sept. 20, 2016 (HarperTeen)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

In every generation a set of triplets is born. Each blessed by the Goddess with powers. In this time it’s Mirabella, an elemental who can conjure the fiercest storms, Katharine, a poisoner who is able to ingest the deadliest of poisons without a bat of the eye, and Arsinoe, a naturalist who can control the most lethal animals in the kingdom. In the end there can be only one. Sorry I couldn’t help myself!

So, in all seriousness, only one Queen can sit atop the throne. When the girls turn sixteen, all bets are off as Beltane approaches, which means it’s open season for the Queens to fight each other to the death. The poisoners have held the position for many years running. But this time around it seems as though Mirabella, the elemental, could usurp their closely guarded power. Of course each Queen has their own set of backers and they will each do everything they can to assure their Queen wins.

From the beginning, it’s clear that the girls are pretty much pawns in a bid for power between the varying factions on Fennbirn island. As we quickly learn, they’re each not above devious plots in order to assure their Queen wins. Right off the bat I felt sadness for these girls. The pressure to be able to perform their magics to perfection and convince people to support them coupled with the fact that at the end of it all they have to kill two of their sisters in order to be crowned is quite terrible.

Added to this is the fact that, despite some affection, the families that foster the Queens through their lives are more in a bid for power rather than looking out for the best interests of the girls.

Through all this, however, I loved each of the Queens for who they are and the lives they have separate from their destiny. Each chapter switches point of view from one Queen to another (or from a member of their retinue). They are each so unique and their personalities so different, Kendare Blake makes it really easy to understand what each Queen is going through, and makes it easy for readers to want all of them to somehow, at the end of all of this, succeed and be happy. Because one other thing that has been clear, with the dread of what is to come upon their sixteenth birthdays, it’s difficult for any of the girls to be truly happy.

As is common in many courtly-type books, there is a lot of intrigue. This type of common plot thread always makes it hard for me to really connect with some of the characters because I’m always paranoid of ulterior motives. Besides the Queens, it was difficult for me to really like any of the secondary characters due to this fact. And with all the switching points of view it was easy to confuse which character is supposed to support which Queen.

I really loved the world and mythology Kendare Blake sets up with Three Dark Crowns. So many actions hinge on events and traditions of the past. Every time we would get background information on the Queens that came before I would sit up and listen with rapt attention.

The pacing is at times slow, but it’s always steady. There were enough twists and turns throughout that it easily kept me reading “just one more chapter.” Three Dark Crowns is definitely a set-up for what is to come next, and I can’t wait to see what that will be.

Sexual content: references to sex

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