Hola! Grab yourself a cuppa coffee and sit down to read our review of Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. It's finally here. Please ignore Emily's grubby fingerprints on the picture above. She just really wanted to show off her teacup from the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. Points to your house if you can tell me what character inspired this teacup. Anyway, onto the book, amiright?
Emily: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is a book both Mary and I received in our Owl Crate boxes many moons ago when this was a brand new series. Now, the third book in this series is about to come out on Sept 4. Apparently, this was supposed to be a duology that was then expanded into a 4-ology(?) because of all the success and such. Seriously, this book has been getting a lot of hype from people in the book world who I trust. So I figured we should finally get around to reading it since we both own it already. So that's a lot of preamble for what is essentially a pretty straightforward premise.
Mary: Yes, this is a super easy ya book to follow—almost a cozy at this point, I’m so familiar with the genre. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying it by the end!
Emily: Three princesses (triplets) are born, each with a different gift. Katharine is a poisoner. Arsinoe is a naturalist. And Mirabella is an elementalist. They are raised separately and on their 16th birthday, they basically have to fight to the death to figure out who will be crowned queen. Poisoners have ruled these here lands for a super long time. They're like the Patriots of the Fennbirn kingdom.
Mary: Yes, except more goth.
Emily: But suddenly Mirabella is this awesome elementalist who is super powerful, and of course there are whispers that she's hot too. And then we have Arsinoe... who everyone is basically like "bless her heart" about, and she was even named Arsinoe because their mom was like "this one's a dud." So there you have it. That's the premise.
Mary: And all three sisters are nervous about their abilities and their ability to kill each other! Fun for everyone! Most of the novel was just the girls trying to figure out their powers and come to terms with everything. And like, that was OKAY. And of course boys had to get involved.
Emily: It was really slow at first, and there were SO MANY CHARACTERS. I wish we had focused more on the sisters. Like, why are we bopping into Jules's point of view? She's not a queen.
Mary: I’m interested in the abilities of the girls though. Naturalist powers and elemental powers seem inherent, but poisoning is definitely something you learn.
Emily: Well kind of. Except there's the whole being immune to poison thing, which a true poisoner is BORN with, and Katharine knows how to poison people, but she's not immune to it.
Mary: Right right.
Emily: The banquet scene where she poisons herself and barfs all over the place, and everyone is like "ew wtf" was a pretty great way to start the book.
Mary: I mean, fair. I would also be grossed out.
Emily: But yeah we know she doesn't have any true poisoner talent because she isn't immune to poison. She's not really goth. She's a poseur who shops at Hot Topic.
Mary: Exactly. She just wants to be goth.
Emily: Right. So. I have questions.
Mary: Yes please!
Emily: You were not digging this book at first. What made you change your mind and what did you not like about it at the beginning?
Mary: The book feels very typical YA fantasy to me at the beginning: girls with a destiny bigger than themselves struggling to fit in, and a half filled world that isn’t well realized. BUT by the end I was kind of hooked because the girls didn’t want to kill each other. I mean some of them do i guess. But I became interested in what the displays of power would be and what they’d do instead of killing each other.
Mary: And the ending really interested me—to the point I considered getting the sequel.
Emily: Yeah, so how do you feel about the fact that now the plan is four books instead of 2?
Emily: I kind of agree. I'd be more all in for 2.
Mary: I mean I ultimately decided not to get the next book. I don’t think the premise is sustainable and this book is so slow. I dislike reading series in general though. It's a lot of commitment!
Emily: It was SO slow. And I know I mentioned this earlier, but were all of these characters really necessary?
Mary: NO. They were not.
Emily: There were so many side stories and side POVs that it was starting to feel like Game of Thrones lite
Mary: I never figured out all of the girls handlers.
Emily: There were SO MANY names. I couldn't bring myself to care.
Mary: Me either There was even a part where a girl got her hands cut off and I was like wait who?
Emily: Yeah who knows.
Mary: *insert DeMario gif here*
Emily: Oh yeah, I can do that.
Emily: So anyway, moving on. I have logistical questions. My first thought at the beginning of the novel is "How do they know which sister has which power?"
Emily: So then at the end, when it turns out Arsinoe is a poisoner, I was like "Oh of course. They just guessed."
Mary: They guessed and got 2/3 of it wrong!!!
Emily: Yeah, that's not great. I wonder how often that has happened.
Mary: Are we also supposed to insinuate some sort of naturalist power from Katharine? Because she got straight up pushed off a cliff and lived—maybe the earth helped her.
Emily: I was kind of thinking maybe Katharine was controlling that bear.
Mary: Yeah maybe!
Emily: Would you be into book 2 if it turned out Katharine had a bear familiar? I know you love bears.
Mary: YES. I was very interested in the bear.
Emily: Okay, I will look into that and let you know. Tell us about the bear, Mary.
Mary: Arsinoe has a dream about a bear, and she thinks hey, this is gonna be my familiar.
Emily: Nah girl. That ain't your bear.
Mary: And Arsinoe has badass scars and has to wear a Phantom of the Opera mask to deal.
Emily: Thank goodness it didn't get Mirabella the hot one.
Mary: But at the great showing of all the talents, Arsinoe knows she has to have a bomb familiar to show she’s powerful, so she wears her badass mask and Jules controls a bear to come bow to Arsinoe on stage. And it’s really cool...UNTIL...BEAR ATTACK! The bear almost gets the pretty sis, Mirabella.
Emily: Bears are always really cool until they're not. That's just true in life.
Mary: Just like in Annihilation.
Emily: Exactly. That's what Arsinoe gets for trying to steal my job as a bear wrangler.
Mary: Don’t mess with bears.
Emily: Do not. But I feel like the bear is someone's familiar because of the dream?
Mary: Yes! Maybe Katharine!
Emily: I'm trying to predict the hell out of this series now because I predicted the mixing up the talents thing. Here's another question: how were they raised? And what's the dealio with their parents?
Mary: They were raised by weird handlers. And their mom just left them, I guess?
Emily: Yeah but how are the handlers chosen and shit? Is mom queen right now?
Mary: It sounds like she popped out those kids and was like byeeeee. It seemed like she went off and now all three of the girls are queen, but really the council does everything?
Emily: WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE?
Mary: This is what I mean about the world not being super clear, and when things were explained it was in weird didactic passages that were boring.
Emily: Another thing. I hate how the author avoided contractions to try to make the language sound "old timey."
Mary: The writing is not great.
Emily: Okay I have a more fun question now. Which sister would you want to win if they were actually going to fight to the death? Obviously they won't, but if they WERE!
Emily: I think Katharine for me.
Mary: I like Katharine a lot. I like the poisoning aspect and she seems the most earnest. I also appreciate that she doesn’t have a love arc. She doin it for herself! I mean she sort of have a love arc, but not really.
Emily: Yeah she has a little thing with Peityr. Also she's a naturalist who knows how to poison people, so that's pretty badass.
Mary: Yessssss. Unstoppable.
Emily: Mirabella's too good at what she does for anyone to root for her. And Arsinoe is fine I guess.
Mary: She's bland.
Emily: Really I just want to be a naturalist so that I can finally control bears.
Mary: I just want animals to like me.
Emily: Same. Imagine if you could control cats.
Mary: I would want to be a naturalist FOR SURE. I'd be too chicken to kill people with poison, and I hate throwing up.
Emily: Well, you would throw up if you were a true poisoner!
Mary: I might sometimes.
Emily: Nope, probably never.
Mary: But controlling bears and cats. I want all the cats.
Emily: Yeah no, that's the clear winner. Elementalists are probably technically the most powerful, but naturalists are the coolest. I just want a familiar.
Emily: Anything else you want to say about this book?
Mary: It was a quick fun read, but definitely don't start if you're not willing to commit.
Emily: Yeah, this book ends on a cliffhanger, which is frustrating. I don't want to HAVE to read the other books.
Mary: Exactly. But the premise is fun.
Emily: Yeah. Fun premise. I gave it three stars.
Mary: I am a two and a half, but three if I gotta pick for Goodreads.
Emily: Goodreads not allowing half stars is truly the greatest injustice.
And that's it for this installment of YA Book Club in Paradise. Get ready for our final book of our summer book club, coming to you at the end of August. It's The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler.
Then in September, we're going straight into YA Book Club Back 2 School because we can't help ourselves. Stay tuned for our book list.