Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
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.
I was not planning to ever reread this book as I wasn’t crazy about it the first time around. It took me a while to really get into it, the fist half was pretty boring, and I could not keep the characters straight for the life of me. Once I could (mostly) remember the central group of characters and the pace started picking up, it did get more interesting. But I still thought I was going to give up on the series.
Then I bought the second book. It’s just got such a pretty cover.
So I decided I had to reread Three Dark Crowns to properly remember what happened and understand the story.
Now I like it. This time through I already knew the characters well enough to remember which story line I was reading. In fact I recognized the locations (which are the chapter titles) well enough that I knew which of the sisters I was reading about, even when they weren’t the first person mentioned. This made the story make significantly more sense and required no backtracking to reread scenes as the right sister.
Arsinoe: I still don’t know how to properly pronounce her name. Is it Are-sin-oh or Are-sin-oh-eh? Or something else? I mean, English would make me think the first, but I kind of like the sound of the second. That e seems unnecessary to me. I don’t know. Anyway, Queen Arsinoe is the naturalist sister, who seems to have absolutely no gift. Meanwhile, her best friend, Jules, is the most powerful naturalist the island has seen in a very long while. With the Ascension Year rapidly coming closer, she looks to Jules’ mother for help to encourage her gift to develop, or if not, some other way to help her survive through the next year.
Mirabella: The elemental. The expected winner. The only one who seems to have any reservations about murdering her own sisters. She runs away, hoping for chance at freedom, but ends up falling for someone who’s heart belongs to someone else, then being returned home quickly after. She didn’t really bring much else to the table.
Katherine: Also not showing very much prowess in her gift. She’s spent her entire life trying to develop immunity to poisons that shouldn’t affect her in the slightest, then facing punishment for getting sick. Then her guardian’s nephew, Peityr, shows up. He helps Katherine come out of her shell, teaching her skills to make her appear more queen-like and more appealing to suitors.
I keep changing my mind about which sister is my favorite. Arsinoe I relate to most personally. Mirabella seems the most compassionate and willing to go against the social norms/expectations. Katherine shows the most growth and resilience.
One thing that kind of bugged me, both times I read it, was how do they know what each sister’s gift is? I know the book said that their mother knew when they were born, but what if she was wrong? I mean, by the time the girls were separated to their respective cities Mirabella was the only one who showed any ability. Arsinoe and Katherine could have been anything and they never would have tried because they were told “this is what you are.” I don’t know. Luckily this is addressed more in the next book.
Have you read Three Dark Crowns? What are your thoughts? Have you read any other book that you liked significantly better the second (or third, or fourth, etc.) time through?