The book started slowly for me as I tried to get to know the cast of characters surrounding each of the three mains…sisters Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella. There were many names and places to try to keep straight, which made it hard to feel invested in the characters at first. Additionally, the storyline felt dark to me, somehow even darker than what I felt the author intended. More about that a little a little later.
The sisters are triplets, born into the royal family in a kingdom where only one can ultimately rule. They are raised separately from age six, and the year following their sixteenth birthday they are unleashed on each other. The sisters battle for up to a year, with only the strongest prevailing with her life to rule as queen.
They are each blessed with a certain gift: one is a poisoner, one is a naturalist, and one is an elemental. The poisoners have ruled for many generations now, but everyone suspects this is the year the elementals will reclaim the throne because the elemental sister appears to be the strongest of the three. Who will triumph? And will the bond they shared as youngsters, before they were torn apart, interfere with the task at hand?
In my opinion, each of the sisters is subjected to more cruelty than is warranted, Katharine most of all. The way she is trained disturbed me. The way all the girls are used by the adults around them is alarming, too. And perhaps the most upsetting of all is a story of seemingly true love that takes an unexpected turn. It might be hard to guess which couple I’m referring to because there are a couple surprising incidents. But one particularly bothered me.
My feelings toward the book aren’t all negative, however. My interest definitely began to build around the halfway point. I especially enjoyed the shorter chapters near the very end. It seemed as though the story was rapidly spiraling to the conclusion as the brief chapters rotated between events in each sister’s encampment again and again. The surprises and unexplained scenarios at the end of the book left me yearning for book two right away. I want to find out what in the world it all means!
Overall, I enjoyed this book to some degree. The end was intriguing and exciting, yet I just had too icky a feeling in many parts of the book to give it a high rating. At the same time, I will be reaching for One Dark Throne when it is released this summer to see how the lingering questions I have are resolved. I recommend Three Dark Crowns if you’re in the mood for a darker take on YA high fantasy.
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