Last updated on February 23rd, 2024 at 03:29 pm

YA fantasy book review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns, a young adult fantasy set in the magical world of Fennbirn, introduces triplets wielding distinct magical gifts, where only one can ascend to the throne as queen. If you lean towards royal drama, betrayal, and plot twists then this book might be for you, with it’s chosen one/prophecy trope, political intrigue, and unexpected twists. However, it didn’t quite meet all my expectations.

However, while I initially expected a narrative reminiscent of Hunger Games with the addition of sibling rivalry and courtly scheming, the delivery fell slightly short of my expectations. The sibling rivalry was there but took its time to unfold and affect the plot, and though politics and betrayal played their parts, the overall resonance left me wanting more. Nevertheless, as I delved into the next book in the series, One Dark Throne, it became evident that Three Dark Crowns was laying the foundations for the dramatic twists to come.

The first half of the book felt slow, lacking the strategic plotting I expected from siblings vying for the throne. Some plot elements seemed pointless and the two main love interests, Pietyr and Joseph, felt annoying and frustrating. I definitely had a few ‘what the hell’ and ‘this guy is a creep’ moments. However, the final quarter of the book shifted the pace, leaving me hooked. I was pleasantly surprised by the last few chapters, and the unexpected turns had me eagerly anticipating the next instalment.

Now onto the three sisters, I genuinely didn’t have a favourite. Does that say something about the overall story? I’m not sure, but I did miss routing for someone! So we have, Mirabella, the powerful Elementalist whose favourite to kill her sisters and be crowned, defies first impressions; Katharine, burdened by the poisoner’s legacy, grapples with expectations; and Arsinoe, the underestimated Naturalist, struggles beneath the shadow of her protector, Jules.

Despite my initial reservations, I continued with the series due to the ending of Three Dark Crowns! I’m roughly a quarter of the way through One Dark Throne, and it’s already 10 times better than the first. If you’re considering pushing through any initial reservations, I’d say it’s worth the journey. The series, with its intricate character dynamics and evolving plot, has the potential to be an addictive fantasy series!

Book rating & bio

Three Star Rating/5

Three Dark Crowns audio cover

Title: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Young adult fantasy, Romance, Magic
My Score: 3/5
Good Reads score: 3.80/5. View Three Dark Crowns on Goodreads.
Format: Audio book.
Hours: 9 hours 52 minutes.
Publisher: Bonnier Books UK.
Narrated by: Amy Landon
Buy on: Amazon | Amazon – Kindle edition | Audiobook |  World of books (physical copy).

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: 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 stomach ache. 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 16, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

Content warning: amputation, animal mauling, self poisoning.
Spoilers: This review is mostly spoiler-free. I’ve placed all spoilers or within an accordion, or have highlighted in bold when spoilers are present. Leaving the choice to you if you fancy reading them.
Disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through those links.

November reading wrap up

In this video, I go over my November reading wrap-up which included some highs and some lows of the following books; ♛ Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, ♥︎ One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake, 🍯 Honey by Mariel Pomeroy, 🐺 Stolen by the Wolves by Lyx Robinson, & 📚 House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas. 

Or skip to read my thoughts on Three Dark Crowns plot and world-building.

Thoughts on Three Dark Crowns plot

I feel like I’ve rambled enough about what I thought about the overall plot, so I’ll focus on the world-building and character development.

The world-building, centred around the three distinct territories of Greavesdrake, Wolf Spring, and Rolanth, successfully immerses us in the unique domains of each queen. However, while we receive a brief history explaining the ritualistic competition and the Beltane festival, I wanted more about why these traditions exist and their origins. There are multiple prequel novellas addressing these aspects adding an intriguing layer for those of us eager for deeper context. So I may try one of these if the second book grips me enough to invest.

The character development unfolded at a slow pace, which impacted my investment in the characters and narrative. Though as I’ve mentioned, One Dark Throne delivers on this aspect from the get-go, I couldn’t help but wish for an earlier and more pronounced evolution in the sisters’ narratives. The consistent and somewhat similar tone of their individual stories persisted until the closing chapters, which if introduced earlier, could have heightened my overall appreciation.

On the matter of romance. I love a good romance and need at least a small taste of it in all the fantasy books I read. For me, it didn’t hit the mark! Katharine’s love interest, in particular, felt forced and lacking relevance to her pursuit of the crown. The possessive nature of the relationship I also wasn’t keen on (and I’m usually okay with this in enemies to lovers, I just really disliked her love interest!). Similarly, the love training situation (no names due to spoilers), while holding narrative purpose, felt abrupt and jarring, notably in the cave scene, a moment so baffling that I listened to the chapter twice to make sure I was hearing this right.

Rant time – I’m dynamic between Joseph and Mirabella once she saves him from drowning. I know they behave erratically due to the spell Arsinoe botched. But COME ON!!! The whole ‘I was dying and mistook you for Jules’ to an immediate commitment to sleeping together felt out of sync with Mirabella’s circumstances. Like isn’t she meant to be on the run and scared!?! Their interactions throughout the book, especially Joseph’s behaviour towards Jules post hooking up with Mirabella at Beltane, were, to put it mildly, giving dick energy (I know it’s due to the spell but still!!!).

I know it seems like I’m complaining about this book for the most part, but the last few chapters and ending saved this book for me. The unexpected twists and heightened intensity during the final moments changed it from my initial 2-star rating to a 3!

If Three Dark Crowns  sounds like your kind of read, why not buy it on Amazon today!

Thoughts on characters - SPOILERS do not read further if you haven’t read the book!!!

Second warning don’t read on if you haven’t read the book!

Kathrine: For the most part, I just felt sorry for her, especially during her poisoner training and during the feasts where her struggles were on display. I was hoping for her character to have a change of pace and become more confident and powerful, or for her to turn on her guardians because they are so cruel and evil to her! Fingers crossed for Katharine to get this in the next book! Which I think we will due to her mic drop moment at the end of the book!! Evil Kathrine enters the chat!

Mirabella: I slightly favour Mirabella compared to the others as she had more of a storyline. She’s powerful, beautiful, and has a good heart. However, I wished she had fully committed to her actions and ideologies, instead of being shepherded by the priestess. Despite her immense power, there was a missed opportunity to explore a more intriguing side of her character.

Mirabella’s besties; Elizabeth and Bree: I loved the dynamic between Mirabella and her besties, Elizabeth and Bree. Their funny banter, girl chats, and evident love for each other added a loving layer to Mirabella’s character.

Arsinoe: I liked how Arsinoe doesn’t take any shit and sees things at face value. Despite her lack of power, she takes things into her own hands, which I love. If I ranked the sisters, she’s my second favourite. Still, I was left with repetitive jokes and one-liners from her and other characters talking to her due to her lack of magic, especially from Jules and the islanders.

Jules: Yessss Jules is so sick with her powers and energy. However, her romantic entanglement situationship with Joseph felt undeserving of her strength. COME ON, Joseph is not worth it hun!! Dump him and get with a powerful naturalist who you don’t have to baby!

Final thoughts

Wrapping up my review on Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns, the complexities of Fennbirn’s dark fantasy world have left me with a blend of appreciation and anticipation. While certain aspects, such as character commitment and historical depth, presented opportunities for improvement, the gripping final chapters injected a renewed energy into the narrative, laying the groundwork for further revelations and character evolution in the next instalment, One Dark Throne.

Read whether One Dark Thrones lived up to my expectations in my book review.

Happy reading!

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*MCs = Main characters, FMC = Female main character, POV = Point of view.

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