Three Cheers for ‘Three Dark Crowns’ by Kendare Blake

★★★★★


Three Dark Crowns was a small YA phenomenon when it came out last year. The book was original, and many YA readers were immediately intrigued by the premise of three young triplets, born and bred to kill one another so that the survivor can be crowned queen.

I was pulled in as soon as I read the back cover: Not a summary or a snippet of dialogue, like most back covers, but a creepy poem.

Three dark queens
are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends.

Three dark sisters
all fair to be seen
two to devour
and one to be Queen.

This book is full of symbolism, foreshadowing, and plot twists. I became attached, little by little, to each of the three queens — Katharine, Arsinoe and Mirabella — for their unique qualities and personalities. Even secondary characters like Pietyr and Jules, I fell in love with. Not Joseph, though, because Joseph can eat dirt (I won’t tell you why, don’t worry). 

I was a little skeptical about this book, largely because I’ve fallen victim to judging books by their covers and expecting greatness just because it looks pretty. Three Dark Crowns had a cover that caught my eye, and I was afraid that the lack of attention it has received since its release meant that it didn’t live up to the hype. I was wrong. This book goes beyond the hype, which was minimal from where I was sitting last year. I could have just missed some of it, but still — this book deserves so much more attention.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a YA fantasy that’s been truly unique. All of them usually have some classic elements (love triangles, dragons, lost princesses, etc) thrown in, which I don’t really mind, but this was just so different.

Basically, the current Queen always bears triplets. These triplets are raised in a cottage in isolation until they are ready to leave the cottage and live with their guardian families. Each queen, as they are all three called, has her own gift.

Naturalists can manipulate nature by making flowers bloom, crops grow, and by controlling animals (to some extent). They also have animal sidekicks, sort of, in the form of “familiars.”

Poisoners, in case you hadn’t guessed, have the gift of poisons. They are experts in poisons, yes, but are also immune to poison and prefer to eat tainted foods.

Elementals can control and call things like the earth, water, wind and fire, but they can also do things like call lightning storms.

There are also war and sight gifts, which don’t really come into play in this book.

Each of the queens is sent to stay with a host family, who takes care of them and helps them train with their gifts until their 16th birthdays. Once they are 16, the Quickening takes place, after which the queens are free to kill one another however they can. Whoever survives becomes Queen, and once she bears the usual triplets the cycle starts again.

The book starts out a little slow, and made me wonder why Blake chose to start out with Katharine, the most stoic of the sisters. But as I kept reading I fell further and further into all three sisters’ stories until I couldn’t put the book down. Blake writes in third person omniscient, which makes the three largely separate stories flow together much more smoothly. The constant switching of locale and characters was less jarring and more welcome; once Katharine got a bit more interesting I didn’t find myself waiting until I could get back to someone else’s story, which is what usually happens to me in multi-POV books.

I would give Three Dark Crowns five stars, honestly.

I sincerely did not want this book to end. When the pages I had left started to thin and there was still so much plot left to cover, I was truly upset. But the good news is that the sequel to Three Dark Crowns, called One Dark Throne, comes out this September! I will definitely be first in line.

Happy reading!


Have you read Three Dark Crowns yet? Are you looking forward to the sequel? Let us know in the comments!

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