Thursday, 13 October 2016

'Three Dark Crowns', by Kendare Blake

Title: Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1)
Author(s): Kendare Blake
Release Date: 22nd September 2016
Publisher: Macmillan
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Source: Publisher (ARC)

Synopsis:
Three sisters. One crown. A fight to the death.

In 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.

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In my never ending quest to find more intricate and layered female led stories, I couldn't help but jump at the chance to read this book as soon as I read its premise. The story of three sister Queens who live on a remote island and have to kill each other off to get the throne?

I was so down for that.

This book is incredibly surprising in the way that it quickly becomes more than meets the eye. You are expecting a fierce, high paced battle to the death between girls that have no feelings for each other other than hate, but the plot takes a twist from its very first pages.

These Queens, these highly powerful, fearsome Queens?

Only one of them truly has powers.

The other two?

Their lives depend on how well they can fake them.

The book alternates its view points between all three queens (Mirabella, Katharine and Arsinoe), and this was a brilliant decision. Not only do we get to see what each of these girls are like and what their thoughts are on what lies ahead, but we also slowly begin to draw a mental map of this remote island and the mechanisms that truly rule it.

While they are the Queens, there are two other powerful groups that take over the island in the interim years between generations, as the Crowned Queen leaves the island as soon as she gives birth to the triplets, leaving a gap of power to be filled for sixteen years: the Black Council and the Temple. Not wanting to let slip any spoilers (which is incredibly hard, considering how much each new piece of information seems like a twist on the preconceptions you make about this plot), this dichotomy between politics and religion in a system that is (technically) a monarchy was one of my favorite aspects to read about in this book.

All three girls share next to no similarities. Raised together until the age of six (which surprised me, as at that age you will still be able to retain memories and create bonds with each other, and I was looking forward to see how this linked with their 'destiny' of having to die at the hands of each other), they are shipped off to different corners of the island, and the most powerful families of each gift become their guardians. Katharine's is the first environment we get to discover, and it was my favorite. The poisoners have been ruling for generations, and seeing just how much is done behind the curtains to maintain that power was what kept me going in a book that was, at points, slow paced.

Each Queen is shown dealing with their fate in different ways, and again, not the ones you would expect. In this aspect, it was a great parallel to see how each of the girls saw each other against how they saw themselves. The amount of misconceptions and manipulation that are hidden in plain sight really makes you question the foundations of this world and how much of what is said is actually true.

Having that great characterization of the main characters, at points I thought there was a lot of time dedicated to others that could probably be reduced to streamline the book a bit more. There is an entire romance plot line connected with Arsinoe's point of view that, unless a different reason is presented in following books, could have taken a back seat and have what it brings to the plot still there. When it comes to other romances in the story, there was only one that I really found myself defending but as you get from the beginning the POV of the love interest and know his motives to pursue that relationship, there's almost a wall stopping you from really going all the way with it.

As I've mentioned several times already, this book probably has the most twists and turns that I remember reading recently. It might seem like it doesn't develop much (as the overall plot does not advance much further than what's included in the synopsis), but I still found this a thoroughly enjoyable read as I navigated my way through very biased perspectives and tried to pinpoint who to really believe.

And trust me: if you think you know what's coming, guess again. There is a plot twist at the very last page that will definitely be leaving you with an insatiable craving for the sequel!

'Three Dark Crowns' presents us with a fantastic introduction to a very unique world and immediately relatable characters. The hardest task of all is deciding which Queen to root for!

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