Hey Guys! I have just finished this awesome book: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake!!! I received this book in my September OwlCrate, so it being the first book I’ve ever received and finished from a subscription box means it’s really special to me. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into exactly with the book. It’s fantasy, and a lot of fantasy is hit or miss. Some of these writers think they’re the next J.R.R.Tolkien, but when you see the front cover it’s one of those real people from the 80’s standing with a generic sword kinda deal. I know, don’t judge a book from its cover, but come on…..
Anyways I read the inside of the book and I’m told that there are three triplet queens with mystical powers born in each generation to the previous queen. They must kill each other for one to rise to power. Ooooo, I’m sensing a very dark fantasy here. Now before I get any further I’m going to warn you right now, there are going to be spoilers. MAJOR SPOILERS! I’m not about censoring myself when I describe a book in full, so if this isn’t what you want then I suggest looking at the reviews on GoodReads (although I swear a lot of those people are crazy, saying this is a DNF). I promise to hold off on the most major of spoilers until the very end though and I’ll mark it in a way so that you can’t possibly fuck up and spoil the whole thing for yourself.
Alright! So three queens named Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe. Mirabella is an elemental who struggles with water, but is kick butt with the rest of the elements especially anything storm related as seen in the flashback other characters describe of her almost tearing apart the Westwood’s house she was sent to after the sisters were separated at age 6. Katharine lives with the Arrons, the poisoners and currently in charge of the Black Council. Ooooo spooky. Now this Black Council is in charge of the island negotiations with the mainland and rules, so I don’t really know what a queen does except for kill her sisters and put people she trusts in the Black Council. I’m guessing not much. Katharine is apparently this failure though as a poisoner, because poisoners are supposed to be able to eat anything poisonous based upon their skill set and live. So either Katharine is the weakest frickin poisoner they’ve ever seen or her gift from the Goddess has not arrived yet. Goddess? Who’s this Goddess? Oh right, so the Goddess is this person? That gives the islanders their gifts. There are 5 gifts one can acquire: poison, elemental, naturalist, war, and gift of sight. Queens born with the gift of sight are drowned upon birth due to the fact that it can make you crazy, although I’m wondering how they know this baby has that gift? Oh well, I’m willing to let that plot hole slide. Apparently the war and sight gifts are extremely rare. It doesn’t seem that any islanders have those in this current time, although there are hints that one of the priestesses, Rho, could have the war gift. But back to Arsinoe. She is again another failure with her gift of being a naturalist. Naturalists are supposed to make fields bloom and call animals to them. They even get a specific animal companion that shows how strong their gift is. Arsinoe can’t even make a rose bud bloom, something a five year old can easily do according to the story.
So progression wise I’m not gonna lie. It’s a little slow. This is not an action based plot. There are not grand fighting scenes, and I think that’s perfectly fine for this book! It didn’t lie and say people were going to have epic battles, so I don’t know why these GoodReads reviewers sound like somebody spit in their food. I imagine the sequel will have more action, as this one was getting us used to the world, the rules surrounding it, and the characters inside it. The story is told from three different perspectives. We start with Katharine and learn she lives in Greavesdrake Manor with Natalia and Genevieve Arron. Now don’t these sound like the coolest names for characters?? Yes, yes they do! Natalia is sweet on Katharine, while Genevieve is pissed at her inability to swallow poisons correctly and lashes out by giving her horribly strong poisons at times. Tonight is her 16th birthday, when everything starts to go to shits. She’s gotta prove herself strong so the Arrons back her during the year she has to kill her sisters. Apparently all that starts at the festival of Beltane, so I’m guessing this book is taking a nod to pagan rituals. Beltane is 4 months away, so the clock is ticking down for Katharine to make a good impression. She takes her pet coral snake to the party as a bracelet. The snake’s name is Sweetheart. While at the party she meets Pietyr! Dreamy guy who wants the best for Katharine, and eventually falls in love with her while in the guise of pretending to just be her makeout buddy so she can catch the eyes of all the King consort suitors from the mainland. Then starts the dread Gave Noir…this poisoned feast Katharine has to consume to prove her strength. Needless to say she fails, uber fails. And everyone basically shakes their heads and walks away while she falls to the floor convulsing.
Then we switch to Arsinoe! Who’s mom apparently named her after a mainland queen who was killed by her sister. Ain’t that nice? So Arsinoe has a best friend Jules, who has a mountain lion for a familiar! She is reported to be one of the strongest naturalists ever. The lion is fiercely loyal and she’s named Camden. Why does everyone have such cool names? It makes me feel inferior haha. At the night of her birthday Genevieve comes to visit telling her that Joseph is coming back. Yay! Who’s Joseph? Well Joseph is a boy that is in love with Jules, and he tried to help Arsinoe escape the island as a child. Unfortunately it didn’t work because the Goddess is a royal bitch who wants these kids to die, and refused to let their boat leave. And so Joseph was exiled. But hey, he could’ve ended up poisoned, so it’s not that bad right? When he returns he brings his foster brother Billy. His dad is in charge of a big shipping company so Billy is a suitor, and he’s decided to go for Arsinoe, even though his dad wants him to choose the queen that will win, and I guess he still could, if he didn’t further down in the book only bow to Arsinoe at the Beltane festival…..There are a great assortment of characters in this book so I’ll only write about the ones that stuck out to me. Next we have Madrigal, Jules’ mom, who is beautiful and selfish. She has a great gift, but won’t help out the fields. Her familiar is a black crow and she decides to teach Arsinoe “low magic” because Arsinoe sucks. They have a fight about how “low magic” is vial, blah blah blah, then Arsinoe decides it’s her only hope and decides to learn how to do it. It’s mostly a lot of blood and herb mixing with some incantations thrown about. And then Luke, who has a rooster familiar. He owns a restaurant of sorts, but is a great seamstress, seamster? He makes Jules this beautiful gown for Beltane at the request of Arsinoe. Major crush going on there, but he’s not wealthy so he can’t be a king consort, and Arsinoe doesn’t give any boys the time of day. Poor Luke.
So now Mirabella. The one that the Temple is backing, even though it is against the rules for priestesses to take sides. But they’ve had enough of the Arrons ruling. They’ve ruled for 100 years, and they want to see somebody else take the throne, so they decided to back the strongest sister and train her. Mirabella is on friend terms with the High Priestess, Luca, and her second in command, Rho. Rho wants to test if Mirabella can actually kill, so she takes her with a group of priestesses and asks her to do a sacrifice for the goddess by using her gift to kill a young priestess in training. The priestesses are brainwashed, because they totally think this is a good idea. Mirabella refuses until some of them try to burn the sacrifice girl to death and to put her out of her misery she dumps rocks on her. But she’s distraught over that and cries in the little garden they have at the temple. Where she meets Elizabeth and Pepper, her familiar woodpecker. Elizabeth is a priestess in training, and apparently has to give Pepper up, but refuses and has instead resorted to hiding him in her hair. Apparently all priestesses must give up their gifts to properly serve the Goddess, hmm I’m liking this Goddess less and less. I’m also thinking Rho didn’t give up her gift, she’s one vicious mofo.
Katharine has a bit of a boring storyline from here on out until Beltane, but essentially Pietyr made a deal with Natalia to train Katharine in the ways of snagging men’s hearts and will get her less thin by giving her food not made out of poisoned things, because lets be real she can’t stomach it and she’s already in Anorexic land due to Genevieve…In return he gets a seat on the Black Council, sounds fair. Katharine is upset, because sweetheart ran away from her, and snakes need a warm place during winter or they’ll die. We learn that sweetheart dies after Natalia gives her a replacement that looks exactly like the original. Katharine getting all excited over her pet that was missing for 4 days but miraculously shows up alive is as sad as when parents replace the dead gerbil with one that looks the same. While she’s 16 years old, she seems to have a more childlike demeanor. She’s more timid and sweet tempered then her sisters, although she strangely loves poisoning people. I wouldn’t want to get this one pissed off at you! Pietyr and Katharine fall in love, which is to be expected with all their fooling around, and they promise to meet each other in secret, if Katharine wins the crown. Aww, true love right there…
Back in Wolf Spring, where Arsinoe lives, Joseph has to travel to the other side of the island to bring a boat that his family just fixed up to its owner. So Joseph and boats don’t really mix and he ends up almost dying in this storm that the island and Mirabella cooked up. Mirabella decides to run away, because she has no desire to kill her sisters and sees Joseph getting chewed up by the waves on her escape to the woods. She rescues him, but oh no he’s drenched and it’s freezing outside. She lights a fire and does the only reasonable thing to do which is to get naked and get him naked and warm him up with her body…So you can tell that things aren’t going to end well between Joseph and Jules. They have sex when he wakes up and is all groggy, then he regrets everything when he fully comes to, there’s a little bit of a oh no did Mirabella like rape the guy? But then he says he was fully aware, just thought it was a dream…idk if that resolves the rape scare, but lets say it does, because he proceeds to stay with her for two days and fucks her a bunch more. Jules, Arsinoe, and Billy go on horseback to look for Joseph and find him in the woods. Mirabella attempts to hide herself, but Arsinoe is a good tracker and notices her there. She sweeps back around and asks why Mirabella has come close to Wolf Spring and headed to Indrid Down (where Katharine lives). Mirabella attempts horribly to explain that she is quitting the whole slaughter your sisters to become queen deal by stretching out her hand. Like how would that get your point across ever????? Unfortunately a bunch of priestesses with weapons show up, and Rho grabs Mirabella. Arsinoe runs away thinking it was a ploy to attempt to kill her before Beltane happens, which is strictly against the rules. Mirabella is brought to the temple where she is scolded. She finds out that her adoptive sister Bree, who helped her escape was whipped, kinda sad but Bree really wasn’t a strong character here so I don’t feel much about that. And then Elizabeth was both whipped and had her hand cut off…What? These priestesses are vicious.
Arsinoe and Madrigal work magic to attempt to get her familiar to come. She has a dream about a brown bear, so she drags Jules, Billy, and Joseph (not on good terms with anyone because he fucked Mirabella) to the woods. A brown bear comes, but it is angry and tries to kill everyone. Camden attacks it and it breaks the mountain lions shoulder. It also swipes Arsinoe’s face, and she’s basically dying in the middle of the woods. They’re able to get her and Camden back, but Arsinoe is left with stitches on one side of her face and now wears a mask, and Camden’s shoulder will never heal correctly. Billy has learned from his dad that the priestesses are trying to make this year a sacrificial one, meaning that Arsinoe and Katharine have their arms and heads cut off then thrown into fire as a sacrifice to the Goddess, because Mirabella refuses to kill them. They plan to make it happen by showing all the islanders at the Quickening (where the Queens show off their skills) that the other two are really weak and need to be sacrificed. He tells Arsinoe, they run away on a boat. Like that’s going to work….
And now it’s Beltane! And Arsinoe is missing! But don’t worry she washes up on the beach where the festival is taking place. Thanks Goddess!! Arsinoe and her team hatch a plan so that she doesn’t get sacrificed by Jules using her gift to charm a brown bear to the Quickening. They’ll do some odd magic to get it bound to Arsinoe for a little bit and all will be well. The Queens have their disembarking where the suitors meet them and they bow to each other. This is where Billy only bows to Arsinoe. And now everyone is excited to see the queens perform their gifts at the Quickening! First is Katharine. She has to eat another Gave Noir. Luckily Natalia has decided to not put any poison in it so that Katharine can seem strong, because she learns from her love, Billy’s dad, what the evil priestesses are going to do. Then it’s Arsinoe’s turn. The bear trick works pretty well that is until Mirabella does her thang. She likes fire, bears don’t like fire. Also Joseph, Mr. Fuckboi, decides to shout her name after proclaiming his love to Jules a day ago….And so well Jules loses control of the bear, or maybe is super angry and sends it through the Quickening to Mirabella. Everyone thinks that Arsinoe was trying to kill her sister before Beltane was over and congratulates her, unfortunately that’s not the case. And well Joseph could have cleared up everything. But being the fuckboi he is decided to not and just kiss Mirabella’s head….Literally Joseph you knew that controlling a bear is really fucking hard and you could’ve explained: oh Jules lost control of it cuz it don’t like fire and I was like screaming your name because I’m in love with two people, and she was upset. Arsinoe can’t control animals, she didn’t send it over. But nope. You had to just sit there and say: it’s ok, she won’t hurt you now….And now Mirabella will kill her sisters all because of a fuckboi!
Oh and Katharine runs away because Pietyr tells her if anything goes wrong to meet him by this creepy super dark ditch cavern thing. She does and I’m like: aww they’re gonna run away with each other. But nope. He decides to push her into the hole, because he’d rather her die from breaking her neck than having her head cut off by the priestesses. Of course nobody told Katharine that that was a possibility so she doesn’t understand why her love just shoved her into a crevice. And now we assume she’s dead. Spoiler alert, she isn’t. Somehow this girl survives the fall and makes it back to the manor and Natalia asks her what she wants. Revenge. Revenge on Pietyr? Or revenge on her sisters? Probably both.
Now this is the best plot twist ever. I totally called it, and I’m super happy about the ending. It’ll mean so much for the book!!! So this is your warning, do not read if you don’t want the motherload of spoils!
Billy goes to Arsinoe to apologize for his father offering chocolates. Arsinoe loves chocolate, but for some reason hands the box off to Jules, who gets an unfortunate visitor in Joseph. They go upstairs to yell at each other, when Jules pops a chocolate in her mouth. She falls to the ground, because it has been tainted with poison! Of course Billy didn’t do this, his daddy that’s in cahoots with Natalia decided it’d be a great idea to off Arsinoe. Jules survives somehow, and then Arsinoe drops the biggest bomb ever on the friends. She had eaten 2 chocolates before she gave the box to Jules. She’s not a naturalist, she’s a poisoner!! Duh duh duhn!!!
I love love love this book. But I’d still only give it a 8-9/10. Joseph really ruins the book. He seems to be loyal and all in love with Jules. But the second he washes ashore the other side of the island he has sex with somebody? Nope. I don’t think so. And then he seriously can’t tell Mirabella what actually happened? He doesn’t want Arsinoe to die, so why the fuck can’t he just say: she didn’t do it. She has no gift! Aghl. This probably dropped the book down a point for me. The whole stupidness of Joseph just seems out of character and kinda convenient plot wise. Then the next thing that made me drop a point was Arsinoe actually being a poisoner. Now I love love love that she is. And that probably makes Katharine a naturalist. Which if you think about it Sweetheart was her familiar most likely and sadly the snake is dead. But they explicitly say in the book that when the queen looks at her children she knows what they are. How the fuck do you mess up what affinity your child has then? Also why did nobody ever question that their gift never came? Sure people have been weak in the gift before, but not had nothing! So if nothing is coming out, wouldn’t you question if maybe you got the wrong one? They’re triplets, so they’re identical right? Maybe you grabbed the wrong one? I don’t know. All I know is that is a big game changer and I can’t wait for the next book to come out. You will highly love this book so much if you’re a fan of dark fantasy. You’ll just have to deal with the fuckboi that is Joseph and the bitch that is the Goddess. Like who does she think she is? Why do they serve her? I don’t see any compelling reason to have her be worshipped, but oh well maybe it’ll be better explained in the next book. It’s coming out 2017 so be prepared!!