As part of my mission to cover all major YA fantasy backlist titles, I soldiered through this entire book. There were some interesting ideas, but nothing that made the 300-page trudge worth it. Two stars.
Book cover: Three Dark Crowns

“When kingdom come, there will be one.”

In 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. 

Publisher synopsis via Goodreads

Natalie Monroe on Goodreads sums up the expectations-vs-reality problem with this book in some well-chosen gifs. This is just a completely different book than it seemed like it would be. This is not just a marketing problem–the premise of this fantasy world promises a violent, heart-pounding, and, you know, dark story. Where is it?

I also agree with Natalie’s assessment that Three Dark Crowns feels like a prequel. It isn’t a story; it’s all the things that happen before the story begins. Like last year’s Mirage (a much better book, imo) TDC is suffering from YA fantasy’s insistence that everything be draaaagged out for a full series. We’re getting cheated out of quality, satisfying Book 1s by this refusal to put a complete beginning-middle-end story in the first installment. It can be done! You can end on a cliffhanger and still have a whole story! Leigh Bardugo and Victoria Aveyard and Laini Taylor did it just fine.

But I guess that takes confidence in your story… a confidence the book seems to lack. I’m sure Blake wrote this with a plan for the whole series, but it doesn’t feel like it. The book reads as though Blake couldn’t decide what she wanted to happen, so she just had her characters wander around and bat eyelashes at boys and complain about their (admittedly horrible) situation until 300 pages were up and it was time for the book to end.

When it ended, I was left with nothing but basic world-building questions about the convoluted inheritance system. I wasn’t left with a sense of what these characters or this story were about, or a burning desire to hear more. I was just left bored and glad it was over.

Book cover: One Dark Throne

From what I’ve heard, the series dramatically increases in quality after the first book, TV pilot-style. That’s probably true, but I can’t see myself going back for more unless there were suddenly no promising new releases in YA fantasy. Why put so much effort into such a shallow story when there are more rich, exciting new ones than I have time for?

Let me know what you thought of Three Dark Crowns–especially if you continued the series–in comments. Should I give it another try? Am I totally missing the point? Let me know!

5 thoughts on “Book Review: THREE DARK CROWNS by Kendare Blake”

  1. I read Three Dark Crowns a few weeks ago and gave it 2 stars. It was just very plain and not enough action for me. I decided to continue the series and rated the next two books 4 stars and am looking forward to the fourth book this year. It does get a lot better!

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