Book Review: THREE DARK CROWNS by Kendare Blake

Photo credit: Goodreads
So as most of you know, I'm a huge YA Fantasy fan, so when I heard the pitch for Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns, I was definitely curious. Combined with an awesome cover and an unusual tense choice (third person present) and I was glad I picked it up.

Before I go into how much I enjoyed this one, let's take a look at the back cover copy on Goodreads:
"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. 
If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest."
So initially I was a little confused about why there were so many POVs—I was expecting three (one for each princess) and I think we end up with...five? Something like that. For the first portion of the book, I know the many POVs made it difficult for some people to get into it. I just rolled with it, and in the end it made sense as to why every POV was necessary. I will say I did find it a little difficult to keep track of all the names and places (the map helped with the latter, though), so sometimes I confused characters. But once I got used to the cast, that became no longer distracting. 

So that said, there were two things I really liked about this book: the magic, and the sisters themselves. There are a lot of takes on magic in YA, and many of them look like Mirabella: some sort of elemental stuff with extras thrown in. Nothing wrong with that, I love elemental magic portrayals, but I was really fascinated by the magic of the poisoners and naturalists. The poisoners especially was magic I hadn't seen before in YA, and it was super fascinating to see how that magic manifested (or how it was supposed to manifest, anyway), how it affected the way other people looked at them, and how they "showed it off" to demonstrate power—and the ruse of power. 

What I really liked about the sisters was they exceeded my expectations in multiple ways. I'd expected Mirabella to be the "evil twin" in the sense that as the most powerful (whether she knows it or not) she'd be biting at the bit to take out her other two sisters, but she was much more complicated than that. 

But what I especially loved about the three was they demonstrated a variety of ways to "be a girl" without ever implying one way is better than the other. Katherine and Mirabella are both traditionally feminine and take power in their femininity—which was awesome to see. On Fennbirn, women are the top of the power totem pole, so the girls never deal with misogyny and in many ways, their femininity was used as a display of power (yay!). Arsinoe, however, is an entirely different kind of girl. She's defiant, cuts her hair short, and never once wears a dress—even in the scenes where the girls are expected to dress formally, she stands beside her two sisters in dresses wearing a black shirt, vest, and pants. I loved this, because I've literally never seen a princess portrayed as anything short of femininely unless she was in disguise—and as a bonus, Arsinoe never gets any grief over it. She's accepted as she is, and while acknowledged as different, no one ever implies her less feminine style is a bad thing. 

So all in all, I found this book fascinating—and I was so glued I read sixty percent of it in one day. While I didn't love some of the details at the end, I really enjoyed this one overall and I'm very much looking forward to the next book, One Dark Throne

Diversity note: From what I could tell, not much there, unfortunately.

Twitter-sized bite: 
.@Ava_Jae gives 4 stars to THREE DARK CROWNS by Kendare Blake. Is this dark fantasy on your TBR? (Click to tweet)

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