I never finish YA fantasy series. Ever. I’ve lost count of the many first books I’ve read and then forgotten or postponed buying the next book series and then it just doesn’t happen. An Ember in the Ashes, Warcross, Stalking Jack the Ripper… They’re fine, but they don’t hook me, you know? Enter the Three Dark Crowns series.
I not only read the second book, I read all four. And the companion novel. In the space of eighteen months, and the delay was only because I was waiting for the last book, Five Dark Fates to be released.
Not only that, but I gave it five stars. I know, right!?
Plot summary for the Three Dark Crowns series:
Three sisters. One crown. A fight to the death.
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.
Star rating for the Three Dark Crowns series: * * * * * (five stars)
What initially drew me to the Three Dark Crowns series was the premise – it’s a very unique concept and one that I hadn’t seen anything even close to previously. Three sisters, each with different innate talents (sort of magical, but not quite), destined to grow up and murder each other for the throne of Fennbirn, just as has occurred in countless generations past. As the series goes on, they learn more about the history of the island and their predecessors, and fight to survive in a world that revolves around their deaths.
It walks just the right side of dark. This is not a twee, cutesy series, even though it might technically be about magic sister princesses. People die. They get their throats cut, eaten alive, poisoned, mauled, scarred, stabbed, amputated… I freaking love it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never quite gory or graphic, but it’s a refreshing change from books that just aren’t brave enough to take that step. I have a lot of respect for Kendare Blake for making difficult choices to progress the story.
There are so many twists and turns; ones that I just didn’t see coming. They keep the story fresh and interesting and, again, they’re totally unique. We’re not talking the usual run-of-the mill plot devices and some of them are just…. argh, so good.
There’s quite a lot of character development throughout the Three Dark Crowns series. I started the series having a particular favourite sister but then I found that, as the characters changed, so did my opinions, and then I was backing a whole new sister! They each have distinct, separate personalities that really glow from the page. Even the supporting characters, like Jules and Joseph, have fully-fleshed out personalities, backgrounds and goals.
There’s a smidge of romance, but it’s quite subtle and doesn’t at all detract from the main plot. This is definitely not a series about romance. And, to be honest, it’s quite well done, and definitely not straightforward.
When the last book, Five Dark Fates, was released, I was initially somewhat skeptical. I hadn’t been sold on where the series appeared to be heading. It wasn’t that it didn’t make sense or anything, I just wasn’t a fan of what I perceived the ending would be. However. I can now confirm that the ending is perfect. It was sort of what I expected, but also sort of completely different. Obviously no spoilers, but I will say that it was not a twee, lovely skipping off into the sunset. It’s honestly absolutely great and could not have been any more perfect.
I had no choice but to give the Three Dark Crowns series five stars. There is nothing wrong with it. I am a pretty critical person but I don’t have even one single complaint or potential improvement. It’s a pretty damn perfect series and I enjoyed every second I was reading it. Definitely one of my all-time favourite series.
The Best Book of January 2020