Author: Kendare BlakeSeries: Untitled, #1
Released: September 20 2016
Length: 416 pages
Source: Publisher for review
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.