What am I reading? Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

This book is why I wanted to address the whole YA fiction thing.

I’ve read a few other books by this author, Anna Dressed in Blood and Antigoddess, so I kind of knew what to expect from the writing. I was not prepared for the content.

This series is about a matriarchal society living on an island shrouded from the mainland by mist. I immediately thought of the Mists of Avalon, but that’s basically where the similarities end.

The island is split into three factions, and each faction has fostered their own young queen: Mirabella the Elemental, Arsinoe the Naturalist and Katharine, the Poisoner. The queens are triplets, separated from their mother, the former queen, at birth, and from each other at the age of 6 before their gifts began to develop. Each queen was raised by a guardian family and during the Beltane festival after their 16th birthday, the queens are presented to the island (and each other), they show off their gifts, and they have a year to murder each other.

Yeah, murder.

I don’t quite get this: there can only be one queen, and for the different factions this becomes like a competition because whatever power the last queen standing has, everyone else with that power is elevated, especially the family that raised her. But why can there only be one queen? Why do queens only rule until they have their triplets? Isn’t it especially cruel to have the queens kill each other when they’re teenagers? Who wants a 16-year-old ruler? I have so many questions about this society.

These questions are what drew me into the story, and at the end of the first book, most of these questions remain unanswered. It’s rare for me to audibly comment on a story while I’m reading a book, but this book elicited the occasional “Holy shit!” and “Ughhh no…”, much to Dan’s annoyance. I spent a lot of time reading this book in Michigan while he was napping or watching West Wing, so he had no time for my book nonsense.

My only complaint about this book is that it falls into that whole angsty teenage love thing. There’s a love triangle, because of course, and there’s a bad boy who chases the sweet young girl for personal gain. I think these tropes are tired, and I would have liked to see the author take the story in a different direction. Unlike most YA fantasy novels, the sex is more than just implied, so if reading about teenagers getting it on bothers you, maybe skip this book.

Overall I enjoyed reading this. I think it’s an interesting premise, and I’ll be reading the second installment for sure.

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