Three Dark Crowns - Review | Kieran Higgins

Three Dark Crowns – Review

Three Dark Crowns (Untitled, #1)Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best book I’ve read in a long time. I was gripped immediately from the start and had to see the story through to the end. Let’s start with the actual physical book – the cover was beautiful, with each of the three crowns detailing the three queens to perfection, and the rough edges created the impression that book had washed up from the island of Fennbirn, ready to spill its dark secrets to me.

The plot, first of all, seemed like a cross between Divergent, The Red Queen, and Hunger Games. The island is divided among the people with powers and the people without, and the powered society is divided event further into different power types, the most prominent being the Poisoners, the Naturalists, and the Elementals. Normally, I can be suspicious of these sort of YA mash-ups, as they’re usually created as a publisher marketing device, but this book avoided this completely. The depth of description and details that were given proved it was totally original and new.

There are three main characters in the book – Katharine (a Poisoner), Arsinoe (a Naturalist), and Mirabella (an Elemental). They are triplets, and each one has the chance of being the next queen if they kill the other two. They have been raised separately from birth by their respective communities to be ready for that day.

With this many main characters (who have been raised apart, so there’s also their individual friends, foster families, the wider community and eventually love interests) it can often seem confusing and overwhelming, but Blake pulls it off perfectly. You become totally immersed in their separate lives, which will eventually collide with a bang as the book draws to the close.

Originally, the book opens with Katharine, and I kinda threw my weight behind her as my choice of queen. The Poisoner society appealed to my Victorian Gothic sensibilities. Then when we moved to Arsinoe and Mirabella, I was dying to get back to Katharine and find out what was going on with her. But then when we did return, I couldn’t stop thinking about what the other two were up to.

Each queen is a totally three-dimensional character and undergoes a shocking amount of character development I didn’t think was possible to achieve in a single book. The book ends with three very different queens that started it, and their actions and inactions have created a fragile world ready to crack. Each one will feel totally real to you, and you will feel sorry for the other two when you eventually pick the queen that you want to win.

The plot is perfectly balanced between slow burn and thrill. The moment that you live in anticipate is the meeting between the three. It’s slow to get there, but it’s necessary to build the tension required for such a climatic moment, which both pays off and leaves you wanting more. The real brilliance comes after, when the Beltane Feast is over, the queens have drawn their battle lines and three very different women are preparing for a clash beyond reckoning.

I saw the twist at the end coming, I’ve gotten quite good at predicting where authors will take their stories, but by the time we got there, it didn’t feel trite or like an attempt to create suspense, it felt like the perfect inciting moment for the inevitable sequel which you can be certain I will buy!

Ultimately, this is a swirling tempest of a book, a storm worthy of Mirabella, a delicious poison brewed by Katharine, a wild forest under Arsinoe’s hand. There is love, loss, revenge, destiny, magic, manipulation, setting in the cruel, intriguing, beautiful, isolated island of Fennbirn. There are dark moments, there are moments of moral ambiguity, and there are outright shockers, but these are the most enjoyable shadows you will ever play in.

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