Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Three Murderous Queens in Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns (Untitled, #1)
Author: Kendare Blake
Series: Untitled, #1
Released: September 20 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 416 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

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.

Even before its release, Three Dark Crowns, the first in Kendare Blake’s new series, is proving to be a highly polarizing book, with readers either loving or hating it and very few (if any) falling somewhere in the middle. Three Dark Crowns offers all the things Kendare is known for: the dark moments, the vivid imagery, the shocking, almost grotesque violence, but it lacks her usual rich plotting and regrettably falls behind her other works.

Three Dark Crowns starts off promisingly, with poison flowing, dangerous elemental magic and cruelty wherever we turn. Readers have been describing it as dark, but it goes a bit beyond that. With Blake’s work, devil is always in the details, and she is known for the gruesome and memorable images she enjoys planting in our heads. Snakes, scorpions, tables full of poisoned food, islands shaking and human sacrifice, all promise us a read we won’t soon forget.

It quickly becomes evident, however, that images are all this book has to offer. With no plot to speak of and very little significant characterization, even blood and gore lose some of their entertainment value. The three sisters meant to kill each other for the throne all seem like weaklings in the hands of stronger political forces. There isn’t a true queen among them, not one a reader could choose to support and wish to see on the throne. They are, all three of them, best described as anti-heroines, and fairly unlikeable ones at that.

The plot, such as it is, is extremely slow to develop. We spend most of the time meeting the three queens, familiarizing ourselves with their friends and enemies and pondering their many challenges. Their respective love interests develop slowly and some are more interesting than others. I have to say I enjoyed Pietyr and Katherine more than any other couple and I found their honesty very refreshing. The lack of plot is made somewhat more tolerable by Kendare’s gorgeous writing, but after a while even that isn’t enough to keep us engaged.

It needs to be said that Kendare Blake’s writing is vivid and impeccable. Technically, she is unparalleled in her ability to paint elaborate scenes and then drown them in blood. As a reader and a fan, I will never give up on her work because she gives me something I so rarely find – elegance in horror and images that haunt me for a very long time. She is allowed one slip, especially one where I can still admire all those things I like most about her writing.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. Oh, I don't know about this. Reading a really, really slow book right now (THE FORGETTING) and I'm hating the pacing!!

  2. Ack. This is highly disappointing. So much hype and very little to show for. Sigh.

  3. I've never read Kendare Blake so I don't know what to expect from her but too bad this one doesn't live up. I am intrigued about her other work given your decription of it- and bummer that this one is a disappointment given how cool the premise is. Love that cover too. Good to know since this one is everywhere. :)

  4. What a shame. I've noticed this trend happening more and more. I feel like authors think all we readers like is blood gore and violence. Since The Hunger Games I've see far too many books that are just a violent fight to the death with little to no story line. Good grief! Give me violence but give me a story to go with it. Sheesh!

  5. I abandoned this pretty early on so I'm selfishly glad to hear I'm not missing out on anything, despite the excellent writing. I wonder if it's just Blake who isn't for me or if her other books are much faster paced than this? I'll have to give her another chance for sure since this was my first novel by her. Great review, Maja!

  6. Dammit! This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year Maja! I was so hoping we'd get the kind of characterization that accompanied Anna Dressed in Blood. I love a good anti-hero character, but I need them to be layered with lots of shadowy corners to draw me in. It doesn't sound like any of the sisters have those corners which is disappointing. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

  7. I agree with your assessment above. No question Blake is an amazing author but Three Dark Crowns felt a little short in certain aspects.

    Great review :)
    Aparajita @Le' Grande Codex

  8. Oh no. I was really looking forward to this one. I am like you, and I love her writing, but I don't think she has ever equaled Anna. I will still read this though.

  9. I will wait and see how book 2 turns out

  10. I'm such a fan of Anna Dressed in Blood and of Kendare Blake's writing. I hate this was a disappointment for you, but I'm glad you're still giving her a chance. I still hope to read it (though now maybe not as soon as I had intended), and I appreciate the heads-up about the pacing and less-than-stellar characters. Thank you for the review! :)

  11. I'm one that falls on the spectrum of absolutely loving this one! I simply felt torn in many ways with not just the three queens but also many of their family and friends too!

  12. Bummer! I was really looking forward to this one. I know it's been polarizing. I guess I''ll have to lower my expectations for it when I do read it.

  13. I'm so bummed about this. The concept is so amazing but most reviewers agree with you though :-(

    Karen @For What It's Worth


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