At the end of my review for Three Dark Crowns I said that I didn’t have any idea what direction Kendare Blake might be taking this book. And I was right, I had no idea. This book took a lot of unexpected turns on me, and I don’t even know how it did that when I had no expectations. I kind of feel like I just got off a roller coaster. And man, what a ride.
Blake does an excellent job of keeping the stakes high by making all three sisters sympathetic, but you’re still going to have your favorite. In the first book, Mirabella was mine. Her sisters are all prepared to kill or die and she just wants everyone to get along. But somehow manages to not sound whiny or schmaltzy about it.
In One Dark Crown, I think Arsinoe stole favorite status for me. She just seems so much more proactive and independent in this one. She’s still dabbling in her low magic, which seems to have been a pretty bad idea in the last book, but it’s surprisingly working for her. And I thought her scenes with Mirabella were gold.
Side note: does anyone understand the bear? How did it go from wild rampaging beast at the Quickening to more or less tame familiar? I know Arsinoe did another spell to bind it, but I still feel like that whole issue resolved itself rather inexplicably.
I felt really bad for Katherine in the first book. Her childhood sounds awful. And I still kind of feel bad for her after the second book. It’s not her fault she got thrown into a pit and now has dead queens urging her on to vengeance. But she’s taken it a little too far. Whatever else happens in book three, I think we can all agree that Katherine needs to be taken down. Hopefully not in a permanent way, but seriously. She’s out of control.
As far as who I think should ultimately end up on the throne, it’s pretty obvious, right? Jules should definitely be queen. She is far more qualified than any of the triplets. I’m not even talking about her insanely powerful magic. Jules just has a better grasp on things. If Fennbirn would get rid of this ridiculous death match system and put the monarchy to a vote, I would stuff the ballot box for Jules.
Speaking of ridiculous systems, what exactly are the queens’ qualifications? Other than being born queens, obviously. As far as I can tell, they’ve spent the past ten years learning how to kill each other. Do they get any type of training that would help them actually rule a kingdom? Is this a deliberate choice so that the foster families get to be the real power behind the throne? Or does everyone just figure that there will plenty of time to figure out how to be a queen once your sisters aren’t trying to kill you?
I thought this was one of those books that sucks you in and makes you love it, but once you finish reading and start thinking about it, holes start to emerge. I would have rated this at 4 out of 5, but since putting it down it has fallen to 3 stars. Mostly because of the ending, which is action packed but also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, so let’s talk about that.
SPOILER WARNING: As I said, I want to talk about the end of the book now, which should have clued you in about the spoilers, but just in case you missed that, SPOILERS AHEAD!
I thought the climax of the book was rolling along spectacularly. Arsinoe and Mirabella locked in the cell together, Katherine forcing Arsinoe to eat poison, now knowing it wouldn’t affect her, (If they were switched at birth, does that make Katherine a naturalist? I think she is.) Arsinoe needing to coach Mirabella on fake crying, it was all great. But then they get on the boat.
I can completely understand their desire to leave this island behind and just try again on the continent. It’s not like they haven’t both had this thought before. I did think it was a little unfair that Mirabella had to leave everyone behind without even saying goodbye when Arsinoe got to take her retinue, but that didn’t last long. But how did they leave? Was having the two sisters together the key? Is Mirabella really that powerful? Did the island not care that they left because Katherine had already been crowned? Hopefully this will get explained a little better in the third book.
Joseph dying was weird. I mean, does anyone really like him? Objectively, he has a tragic story. He’s exiled from his home, finally gets to return only to have one of his best friends accidentally put a love spell on him that makes him cheat on Jules, and then patches things up with her just to die, once again trying to leave the island. It’s like his whole life is just one big sad cycle of alternately trying to get away from or back to Fennbirn. But somehow in execution his character just came off as weak and useless. Did Kendare Blake realize this and decide to just get rid of him?
It’s not his death that doesn’t make sense so much as Jules’ reaction to it. After this big debate about whether she should leave the island or not, she dramatically declares that she isn’t going to leave her friends, even if they all end up drowning fifteen minutes later. Then, as soon as they get clear of the island, she immediately changes her mind. She leaves the best friend she has devoted her life to without a backward glance, hops in a boat with her cat, leaving the body of the boy she has loved for her entire life behind, and the only real mention of any of this is a casual, “you guys will take care of that, right?”
Jules is my favorite character (in case I haven’t made that clear already) and I’m happy she’ll be on the island in book three to be part of clearing up that whole messed up situation, but seriously. What is she doing in this scene?
I suppose the best answer to that question is that she is acting like a sixteen year old girl. Moments like this make me think I might be getting too old to read Young Adult books. Because seriously, what are Mirabella and Arsinoe’s foster parents doing? It’s a good thing they have Jules and Bree (and Elizabeth) because everyone else is useless.
So, in conclusion, I liked the book, despite it’s weak points. Objectively, it’s a three star book, but I’m still looking forward to the next one to find out what happens with all these crazy kids.