“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.”
Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born to the reigning queen. All three are heirs to the throne. All three have separate powers. One is born an elemental who can manipulate the elements; one is born a poisoner who is excellent at mixing poisons and who can ingest any poison without a blink; and one is born a naturalist who gains an animal familiar and who can manipulate plants and animals. Legend says the queen knows what each child’s power is when they are born. The sisters are separated when they are young and taken to their respective homes on the island to train: the poisoners in the capital, the naturalists by sea and the elementals on the cliffs. When the queens turn 16, the battle for the crown begins. The one who kills both her sisters will win the crown and rule Fennbirn until she gives birth to her triplets.
The poisoners have ruled Fennbirn for several generations. But this generation, Mirabella, the elemental, is the strongest. In fact, Katharine, who is the poisoner, can barely stand the gentlest of poisons, and Arsinoe, who is the naturalist, still has not been able to call her animal familiar or get any plants to bloom. Each faction is desperate for their queen to win so they can gain control of the island. Mirabella is nearly guaranteed to win, but she’s plagued with dreams and memories of the sisters she was torn from. She loves them despite the harsh conditioning toward hatred. She can’t imagine killing them. So what happens when strongest refuses to reign? And what lengths will the poisoners and the naturalists go to, to ensure their queen wins?
Kendare Blake wrote one of my favorite books (“Anna Dressed in Blood,” check it out; it’s awesome!), so I had to check out her latest book. And Blake didn’t disappoint this time either.
“Three Dark Crowns” is apparently the beginning of a series, and is told in the alternating points of view of the three sisters. When you know at least two of the characters will die, you try to pick a favorite and hope for the best, but I loved all three queens. They’re so different and enigmatic. Blake does a fantastic job with character development in this novel; she makes the queens human enough to relate to.
Blake does have a tendency toward adding in scenes that seem completely irrelevant. Occasionally, there’s a filler chapter for one of the queens, which is annoying because I was always anxious to know what happened next. But, overall, Blake is such a wonderful storyteller, that it’s easy to overlook something so small.