Three Dark Crowns

I don’t know quite where to begin. I finished reading Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake a few hours ago, and I’m still processing what happened in this book, particularly the batcrap crazy ending. (I mean that in the best way.) This book is convoluted and vicious–perfect for fans of Kiersten White’s And I Darken and Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes–and I can hardly wait for more.

On the mysterious island of Fennbirn, three sisters–triplets–vie to be the last queen standing. Separated at an early age, the girls grow up knowing that they may one day have to kill their sisters in order to claim the crown. Each queen is supposed to be endowed with her own special brand of magic, and the strength of that magic could lead one of the young women to rule.

Katharine is a poisoner. She should be able to ingest even the most dangerous poison with no consequences. She can craft poisons with the best of them, but she cannot yet consume toxins without being violently ill. If her gift does not arrive soon–before Beltane–she fears that her quest for the throne will be short-lived.

Arsinoe is in a similar situation. She is a naturalist, but she cannot yet control even the smallest portion of the natural world around her, and there is no sign of her animal familiar on the horizon. Her companion, Jules, a powerful naturalist in her own right, has been trying to coax Arsinoe’s gift out of hiding, but the only magic Arsinoe experiences–dangerous spells performed with her own blood–may come with a cost more dire than she realizes.

Mirabella is widely considered to be the front-runner for the crown. She is a powerful elemental, and she has been controlling wind, fire, water, and earth for years. But Mirabella wonders if she’s truly capable of killing her sisters when the time comes. She remembers with fondness their lives before they were separated, and her unwillingness to do her sisters harm is viewed as weakness by those in power. Her path to the throne may seem clear, but her own feelings may cloud the way.

Each of these three sisters are attempting to figure out where they stand in Fennbirn, but they are running out of time to come to terms with their destinies. Their quests for the crown truly begin at the upcoming Beltane celebration. After that, two of them must die so that one can be queen. Add in questions about their gifts, power struggles from without and within, suitors vying for their hands, betrayal, and their own often conflicted feelings, and something has to give.

Will Katharine and Arsinoe receive their gifts before Beltane? If not, can they make others believe they are fit to be queen? Is Mirabella truly the most powerful of the three and destined to be the sole queen? Or does fate have something else in store for these sisters and those who would see them killed or crowned?


I’ve left out A LOT here, but I didn’t want to give too much away. I will say, however, that it’s difficult to determine which of the sisters–if any–should truly be queen. I felt sympathy with each of them at different points, but I can’t say that I was really rooting for any of them. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really like the sisters throughout much of the book. Jules, Arsinoe’s companion, was probably the only character in the book that I 100% liked. That’s okay, though. I think my conflicted feelings on these characters are exactly what the author intended. Nothing is clear cut in this book, and that makes things very intriguing.

For those wondering if Three Dark Crowns is a good fit for middle grade readers, I have to say…I’m not sure. It is brutal, and there are some sexy times (which are kind of understated). Some middle grade readers may be able to handle it; others won’t. I would probably recommend this book to grades 8 and up, but I urge you to read the book for yourself if you work with tweens and young teens. You know your readers better than I do.

The next book in this series, One Dark Throne, comes out on September 19th. There will also be a prequel novella, The Young Queens, released on December 26th. Lots to look forward to in this exciting series!

For more information on Three Dark Crowns, visit author Kendare Blake’s website or connect with her on Twitter. You may also want to check out the awesome book trailer from Epic Reads below. Enjoy!

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Queen Song

Note: Even though Queen Song is a prequel novella to Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen, it’s a good idea to read Red Queen first. (Also, Red Queen was published first, so there you go.)

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished reading Queen Song, the first prequel novella in the fabulous Red Queen series. This short story tells the tale of Coriane, who you may recall was the mother of Cal and was the first wife of King Tiberias. That’s not where her story began, though. Coriane was a simple girl–or as simple as a Silver can be in this world–and she had resigned herself to a somewhat mundane existence. Fate, however, had other plans…

All Coriane has ever wanted is to build things. She delights in taking things apart, figuring out how they work, and putting them back together better than they were before. She spends her spare time poring over technical manuals…when she’s not being forced to suffer through etiquette lessons or the like. As a Silver of somewhat noble birth, she’s expected to take part in the trappings of the royal court, even though she’d rather be doing almost anything else.

One evening at the palace, Coriane comes into contact with two people with the power to change her life forever. First, there is Elara, a girl with the ability to enter–and toy with–the minds of others. Coriane finds herself as Elara’s terrified plaything for several horrible minutes, and she escapes to the relative safety outside. It is here that she meets Tibe, the Crown Prince. The two strike up a conversation…a conversation that Coriane never expects to lead to anything more than an unlikely friendship. It seems that Tibe may have other ideas…

As Coriane and Tibe grow closer together, it becomes clear to everyone that the Crown Prince has chosen his future queen. This puts an enormous target on Coriane’s back, and, even though she has come to love Tibe, she remains fearful of what others may do and expect of her…especially the dangerous and devious Elara.

Documenting her thoughts in a diary, Coriane reveals what it’s like to go from Silver nobody to Queen. Little by little, she feels herself being lost to the world around her. She’s simply not the girl she once was. She fears for the fate of her loved ones–especially her brother Julian, her husband Tibe, and her son Cal–and herself. She worries over the continuing war and what it could mean for her family. And she wonders if the disturbing thoughts in her head are her own.

Is Coriane in control of her own fate, or is someone else whispering deadly thoughts into her mind to further their own agenda? You decide…


Given how Queen Song ended and what happened in Red Queen, I have no doubt as to who was pulling–and cutting–Coriane’s strings. I’m guessing that anyone who’s read either of these stories will come to the same conclusion I did.

Queen Song gives readers a quick look at the early lives of several characters from Red Queen. Readers see what lead to some of their decisions and what continues to drive them. This is particularly true for Cal, Tibe (the King), Julian, Elara, and even Maven. (I doubt I have to explain why.)

Coriane’s story, while often heartbreaking, gives a bit of insight into her relationship with both her brother and the man who would be her husband. It also shows how dedicated Coriane was to her son and having him grow up in a world without the constant threat of war. This young woman wanted a better world for her family, but, sadly, someone else wanted to be in control of that world. (Again, if you’ve read Red Queen, I don’t have to explain anything more.)

I think Queen Song is an excellent addition to the Red Queen saga, and I look forward to reading even more. There is one more novella, Steel Scars, which is already out, and I plan to read that this weekend. The second full-length novel, Glass Sword, comes out next week (!!!), and I’ll get my hands on that as soon as possible.

To learn more about Queen SongRed Queen, and Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page. Have fun out there.

Bitterblue

While it’s not entirely necessary to read Graceling and Fire (the first two books in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series) before reading Bitterblue, it is highly recommended…simply because all of these books are freakin’ fantastic!

On May 1st of this year, I rushed out to my nearest bookstore to pick up a book that I had every intention of reading immediately.  Sadly, as it often does, life got in the way, and I just recently made the time to read Bitterblue, the third book in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling trilogy.  I’ve been anticipating reading this book for a LONG time, and it was very much worth the wait.  I absolutely adored Graceling and Fire, so I knew that Bitterblue would be no exception, but I wasn’t prepared for exactly how much I would love this third installment.  It did take me a long time to read this one–nearly three weeks.  (A lot of different things factored into this, including but not limited to being displaced from my home due to a break-in, webmaster training and faculty meetings at school, sickness, fatigue, work, and just being busy doing other stuff.)  Anyway, I think taking so long to read Bitterblue helped me to really absorb what was happening, and, at least in this case, made entering this fantasy world the escape that I really needed it to be.

Bitterblue picks up eight years after the conclusion of Graceling. King Leck of Monsea is dead, but his legacy of cruelty–and his Grace of having everyone believe his lies–lives on.  His daughter, Queen Bitterblue, is left with the arduous task of picking up the shattered pieces of Monsea and putting them back together again.  But who can she really trust to help her?  She is certain that her advisors–who also worked for her lying, sadistic father–are keeping things from her.  She can’t get a straight answer from anyone, and anytime she brings up the past, those around her simply shut down.  (Some things, it seems, are simply too painful to remember.)  Her true friends and confidantes (Graceling‘s Katsa and Po among them) are few and far between, and, though they’re willing to help Bitterblue when they can, it ultimately falls to Bitterblue to find the answers she needs…even if she has to disguise herself and escape her guards to do it.

Bitterblue finds a new freedom when she leaves the castle and loses herself in the capital city of Monsea.  No one knows her as their queen.  She can be anyone and do anything.  She can find some answers to the questions that plague her every waking minute.  She can become friends with people who won’t make a habit of lying to her…because they don’t know who she truly is.

One of those friends is a Graceling named Sapphire.  Bitterblue is drawn to him like no one she’s ever encountered.  What’s so special about this young man?  And what will he do when he finally learns the truth…that the girl he’s come to care about is actually the Queen of Monsea?

While Bitterblue is facing her new, confusing feelings about Sapphire, she’s also dealing with betrayal at every level, the haunting legacy left by her father, spies in her midst, uncovering the lost history of her people, and the threat of war with neighboring kingdoms.  It’s all a little much for an eighteen-year-old monarch to handle.  Bitterblue is doing all she can to keep her head above water, but the pressure of everything weighing on her is starting to make her question her ability to rule.  Will she be able to rebuild Monsea while retaining her sanity, or did her father do more damage than Bitterblue can ever hope to repair?  Read Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore to learn if one young girl can be the queen–and the hope–that her people need.

So, yeah…I loved this book, and you should read it.  It’s beautifully complex, and it allows those of us who adored Graceling and Fire to revisit some of our favorite characters while introducing us to new characters to love and loathe.  I think I’ve said this about the previous two books, but I’ll say it again because the same applies to Bitterblue:  Tolkien fans will delight in this book and its companions.  (My fellow Ringers know this is super high praise.)  Kristin Cashore is wonderfully adept at world-building, and I found myself, at several points in this book, looking outside and being disappointed that my surroundings didn’t mirror those in Monsea (especially Bitterblue’s castle).

I can’t say enough good things about the entire Graceling trilogy.  I just wish there were more books to look forward to.

If you’d like more information about this series or author Kristin Cashore, check out her blog at http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/.  You may also enjoy the Bitterblue book trailer below.  I truly hope you enjoy this book and the others in this series as much as I have.