Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is about three sisters with different magical abilities competing for the throne. There are three chosen ones in every generation, but only one can be queen by killing her other two sisters. Mirabella is an elemental and known to be the most powerful; Katharine, a poisoner who can eat the deadliest toxins; and Arsinoe, a naturalist who is connected to nature and animals. As tradition goes, they are separated as children before their powers manifest and entrusted in the care of families that will train the girls for battle after their sixteenth birthday. The story develops quite slowly towards the novel’s climax: a festival that marks the beginning of the fight for the throne. This is probably because this book is the first in a four-part series, and the ending leaves you in suspense to pick up the second novel where the first left off.
While the three other books that follow are much more thrilling than the first, Three Dark Crowns focuses more on the queens’ character development, their romances, and the rules of the island Fennbirn. Most of the character development was worthwhile to read because it made the motivations and the actions of the queens in the later books more understandable and impactful. Mirabella may be the strongest, but she does not want to kill her sisters. Katharine is a weak poisoner who is constantly sick from the amount of poison in her body, but she wants to prove she is worthy. Arsinoe’s powers are practically nonexistent, but she has great friends that support her. The in-depth world-building impressed me, such as the tensions between the different sects of the island and the people who represent the queens, the history of Fennbirn, and their customs/traditions. It was clear that many of these aspects had larger roles to play in the later books, and I was excited to see how the author would tie them into the story of the three queens. I was anticipating more action scenes in this book, but they appeared towards the end of the novel and were mostly saved for the sequel. The book starts a bit slow, but the ending and cliffhanger shocked and captivated me. This is why I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading longer series and being invested in the world the author has created.
Review by Lecia Sun