Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Where the heck has the year gone? How is it Christmas a week on Sunday? Gah! There are still so many books I wanted to read by the end of the year; I can read 30 books in 2 weeks.. right? 

I recently finished Three Dark Crowns, which is one of the YA books I’ve heard a lot of hype about. 

From the blurb:

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.

The island of Fennbirn is a bit like the legendary Avalon; it exists apart from the rest of the world, reached through a mist, in a place of magic and intrigue

Fennbirn has a matriarchal society; the current Queen always abdicates upon giving birth to 3 daughters. Triplets. The people of Fennbirn may have a talent for 1 of 4 gifts – poisoning (Poisoner), control over the elements (Elemental), ability to affect  plants & animals (Naturalist), or battle skills (War). 

When the triplet “Queens” are young children, they are separated and raised by the faction they share powers with.  The leaving Queen can sense what powers her daughters have, and this ensures that the girls are placed with the right people. 

The Queens then spend the next ten years honing their gifts, training for their 16th year, when they will have to fight for the throne. In order to remain Queen, the winner must kill her 2 sisters.  I still don’t know why. I mean, they could arm wrestle, or have some sort of competition where the winner gets the crown and the other 2 get to retire, but for some reason they have to kill each other. 

The sisters must display their gifts for the people of Fennbirn in a ceremony called The Quickening; on this night the people will be able to see who is the strongest queen. When the Queen is crowned, the people who share her gift find that their powers also grow stronger.

Katharine is placed with the Poisoners; she has still not displayed her power. Her guardians have tried to prepare her for The Quickening by feeding her poisons over the years, but she sickens and grows weaker every day. The Poisoners have had control over the island for 100 years. They are a political and power hungry group, and will do anything to keep their current positions.

Arsinoe has been brought up with the Naturalists, who can help things grow and have animals do their bidding, but she cannot affect a single bloom.  Her best friend Jules is the strongest Naturalist in generations. Naturalists have familiars, companion animals who are an extension of themselves. The larger the animal, the more powerful the gift. Jules’ companion is a mountain lion.  Arsinoe worries that her gift has not yet appeared, and feels that her friend is more suited to the role of Queen than she will ever be.

Mirabella is the only one of the sisters to display any genuine gifts; she is an Elemental with the power to control storms. Mirabella’s  weakness is that she can remember her sisters, and loves them. Mirabella refuses to kill the sisters that she loves. 

There are also a number of suitors who wish to become the King-Consort, political squabbles and romantic misunderstandings. 

This book was quite slow to begin with, and I found it difficult to keep track of everyone. The narrative flits between the three sisters, so you get a good understanding of the motivation of the three queens. 

It was okay for the first half, if a bit slow, but after the 200 page mark it became really interesting. It also ends on a cliffhanger that brings everything together. I gave the book 3/5 stars, hopefully the second book will be a lot better now that a lot of the exposition is out of the way. 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Cheerio!

Stephani Xxx 

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2 thoughts on “Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

  1. “I mean, they could arm wrestle, or have some sort of competition where the winner gets the crown and the other 2 get to retire, but for some reason they have to kill each other. ” OMG haha I love your solution. It does sound like an interesting story, but I can see how it might be confusing with the odd names and all the factions and then love interests on top of that.

    Liked by 1 person

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