Three Dark Crowns

Kendare Blake
Three Dark Crowns Cover

Three Dark Crowns


Triplet queens are born to each previous queen, as the goddess commands. One a poisoner, one a naturalist, one an elementalist. May the strongest take her crown and the others perish by the queen's hand. It is assumed that this year, Mirabella, with her fierce spirit and great elemental powers, will take the throne. Her sisters are weak. Katharine struggles with her poisoners gift and Arsinoe can hardly make a flower bloom, much less call an animal familiar.

The queens, separated since childhood, are resigned to their fate. That this ritual must dominate their lives is all that they live for, even the two who know they are not meant to win. Yet still, Arsinoe and Khatarine persist, either by their own will or the encouragement or coercion of their companions. The story is told from the view points of the three queens and several of these companions. Through their eyes, Blake shapes the different realms of the kingdom, as well as the nature of their worship and this age old ritual, and, of course, the queens themselves. At first, this constant back and forth is a bit ponderous and perhaps a bit confusing, but it was certainly necessary to the worldbuilding leading up to the night of their sixteenth birthday, when their battle for the crown truly begins. This climax does not happen until the very end so I must caution that this book requires patience, but I was quite pleased with the pay off and promise of more to come.

This book successfully kept me on my toes with its constant twists and turns. It is never quite clear who is working for or against each of the queens, and even those who seem to love them most can't be trusted. Not that everything is about deep dark plotting and scheming -- though there is a healthy does of that.

The entire concept behind the triplet queens is pretty creepy and the way each queen and those around them approaches the concept of having to kill her sister helps fuel the intrigue. And then there is the greater question of who is really running the show? The politics behind the three groups of magics is tangled up within the story but there's a sense that there's so much more going on that we don't get to see. And by the end of the book when things finally come to a head, it's clear that all of this has only scratched the surface of what the queens and their courts are capable of.