Title: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: September 20th, 2016
Source: ARC received from SparkPoint Studio (also through books for trade)
I was contacted back in August by a publicist from SparkPoint Studio about being part of a Fall YA Blog Tour, and one of the books they were featuring was this one, Three Dark Crowns. This was a book I'd been excited about since I first heard of it earlier this past summer. So I emailed and asked if there were still any copies of it left so that I could be a part of the tour. And lucky me, they still had copies available! Now, it was a little later before I got the book, but I was still able to get it read, almost on time. The plan was to do a review on Friday, but I wasn't able to get it finished in time. I tried really hard to finish it before bed, getting through almost 100 pages before bed, but then I was tired. So I finished the final 50 pages this morning while I was getting my pedicure. And let me tell you what, those last 50 or so pages were incredible!!! The whole story was good, but the end, well it just really grabbed me and held on, and kept me gasping and reading with my mouth hanging wide open until the bitter, and I mean bitter, end. So many surprises at the end. Betrayals, magical gifts being different than suspected, and the romance, even that had its twists and turns.
The story is told in three separate viewpoints, one for each queen, and they basically alternate through each one. The first queen that we meet is Katharine. She comes from the current ruling family of the poisoners. You see these people are able to eat anything poisonous and live. They also know how to come up with poisons to affect others when needed. But Katharine doesn't quite seem to live up to her gift, and it worries those around her, that one of the other two queens, her two sisters, will end up winning the fight for the crown, thus ending the rule of the Poisoners. When we first meet Katharine she is getting ready to do a sort of "practice" meal, what she will have to do when the competition between the queens first starts. She must eat from all the different dishes of a special meal, one where every type of food is poison, mushrooms, poison creatures, berries, etc. She's never been able to really stomach much of the poison, so her only hope is to be able to eat a little bit, and then get away from everyone before she is unable to hold it down any longer. Only things don't quite work out that way. And with her failure, her own people lose confidence in her, and she is disgraced. Her trainer's nephew, Pietyr, shows up to try to prepare Katharine to capture all of the suitors attention, thinking that may be the best way to go.
The second queen we find out about is Arsinoe. While Katharine was the youngest of the three, Arsinoe is the middle girl. Arsinoe is with the naturalist people. These people can communicate with animals, make plants grow, all of that. Arsinoe's best friend, Jules, is actually one of the strongest naturalists that anyone has seen in a long time. Unfortunately, Arsinoe doesn't seem to be getting her gift. Unlike everyone else in the town, she doesn't have her own familiar, and can't seem to attract one. With the help of Jules's mother Madrigal, she begins to use a type of low magic to try to do what she needs to do. The first attempt is to get a bear, and when it seems to be working, and Arsinoe goes out to find this bear, things turn bad, because the bear isn't under her power, instead it attacks, and Arsinoe's chances at being queen seem to go down, just as Katharine's have. The romance at first in this one is between her friend Jules and their childhood friend Joseph. Joseph has been away at the mainland, punished for trying to help Arsinoe escape the island when she was younger. But now he comes back, and he brings with him the son of his foster family, William, or Billy as he goes by. Billy is going to be a suitor. And he begins by getting to know Arsinoe, and becoming her friend.
The final queen is Mirabella. Mirabella's gift is strong, she is an elemental. She can control water, wind, fire, and the earth itself. She is also backed by the priestesses. And this year, she is rumored to be the strongest of the three queens, and is pretty much set to win according to most. But Mirabella, who is the oldest of the three, doesn't think she will be able to go through with killing her own sisters. She doesn't quite have the heart for it. Something that is shown to the priestesses when she isn't even able to participate in a sacrifice like she is supposed to. When the priestesses begin to worry things won't go the right way because of this soft side of Mirabella, they scheme to come up with a new plan. A White Queen year. Where the other two queens are killed by other people or events before the final ceremony. And the priestesses set out to try to make this happen. At first there isn't much a love interest in this, although because of her beauty and strong gift, Mirabella is still expected to win all of the suitors. Then, during one event where Mirabella has affected the water and wind and caused a boat to almost sink, and the boy in it to drown, she does find a connection. But it is this connection that will be a betrayal in a way to one of her sisters.
Let me say how much I loved the way this story was done. I love how the different gifts were used, or how they were not used by those who could not. I love the characters relationships with the people around them. There were definitely the people around them that you rooted for, and were so happy the queens had in their life. Then there were those people that you hated and rooted for anything bad to happen to keep them away from the queens. And then there were those that gave up unimaginable things to help the queens, and those that were so close, yet still betrayed them. There were moments when you thought one of the queens was going to die, and it was so shocking. And there were times when they could come back from what seemed to be the edge, and that too was amazing.
I loved this book. I am so eager to read the next one, because with the way things were left, there are so many things that could happen! I want the sisters to unite against everyone and rule together, but now it doesn't seem as if that will happen, with all the betrayal, real or imagined. So much in this story. I hope that you get a chance to pick this up and read it soon!