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.
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 sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.
One thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.
Three Dark Crowns had so much potential for me. I’ve heard some really positive buzz about it online, so I was really pumped to read it. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it as much as I wanted. While I have a lot of negative things to say about this book, there were some positives and great starting points, they were just never fully developed.
I am loving the dark trend in YA Fantasy right now, it’s refreshing to see dark female characters, as opposed to the traditional damsel in distress girls we’re all used to reading. In this novel I really liked how gritty the premise was, it felt new enough to stand out from the crowd but familiar enough with the siblings vying for power plot line that it was easy to believe in and follow.
The World Building
First of all, the map in the front of the book is stunning. STUNNING! It’s completely intricate and highlights how thought-out the wider world of this story is. There are complete backgrounds with past queens, the religion and the deep seeded hate between the different groups.
Something I really appreciate in YA fiction is when an author chooses not to write down to their audience. Political intrigue is something that is often smoothed over or hinted at but isn’t at the forefront of many YA Fantasy novels. This isn’t the case with Three Dark Crowns and I loved that. The multiple perspectives approach gives us insight into all the different political moves being made and how everyone in this world has an agenda that can be more complicated than it seems.
One of the biggest issues I have with this story was the overall plot. The book is all about how the three sisters have been raised with the knowledge that one day they will need to kill their siblings to claim the throne. But the story starts months before that day and spends the majority of the book building up to the beginning of this event. So 80% of this book you’re reading about their girls thinking about killing each other, and slowly moving towards that BUT NEVER ACTUALLY GETTING ANYWHERE!
It was so frustrating because the whole book felt like plot filler. With a few carefully written and edited chapters the story could’ve been cut in half and the ending rewritten to give some more “meat” to this story.
I’ve taken my fair share of creative writing classes and constantly I’ve been given advice along the lines of, “get in late and get out early”, meaning start your story right in the middle of the action and get out before a clear or drawn out conclusion is in place and I really think someone needed to apply this method of thinking to Three Dark Crowns. It would’ve taken a story that has some amazing backbones and given it a firm structure and purpose, rather than spend 200 pages building tension towards an event that doesn’t really solve anything.
A HUGE pet peeve of mine when reading fantasy is the trope of “eternal love at first sight”, where characters fall completely and irrevocably in love with someone else on first sight, without knowing anything about that person. It’s so surface deep and such a flawed idea that builds the belief that true love only exists between beautiful people. It’s such a flawed idea to be explored in novels, especially in 2017. I much prefer romance plot lines that have that attraction but build over time into something strong, through communication and moments of bonding. Stories that do manage the distinction avoid this trope-filled cliché that’s reminiscent of Disney fairy tales.
Three Dark Crowns, unfortunately, falls into this trope a few times, especially with Joseph and Mirabella. Two characters who meet in a near death experience and basically fall into bed with one another, without even knowing each other’s names. They then claim to be completely in love after that experience and are willing to die for one another. They’ve known each other for less than two days when this comes about in the story and feels so fake and inconsistent. Especially because Joseph is supposed to be in “love” with someone else. Having this fake love storyline completely throws the integrity of the story in question. I didn’t trust any of the relationships, romantic or otherwise after reading this. Even ones that felt really strong because I could see how the author felt so little about the bonds between the characters. And rather than build strong plot lines, they chose to use cliché love triangles to add drama to the story. If the author had trusted that their premise had enough drama without these clichés’ it would have been a much much better story and this would be a very different review
There is little to no character development for the three main sisters. The reader spends so much time reading about secondary characters in the story, like the people charged with the three queens care, rather than the queens themselves. The only character that I felt had any real story arc was Arsinoe and that is purely through her relationship with secondary characters, like Jules. She changed in relation to what was going on around her, rather than learning anything about herself. I felt like I knew more about some of the smaller characters than I did the sisters and that bugged me.
It bugged me because having fully formed secondary characters is important to creating a well-rounded story, but the main character (or characters in this case) need to fully formed as well and they were not. It’s such a shame because if they were it really could’ve elevated this story into something really spectacular.
All the bones and groundwork was there for an amazing, compelling, dark YA fantasy novel but with such major problems occurring in this novel, it became a DNF (Did Not Finish) book for me. I had about 20 pages left when I gave up and that was mostly due to the overwhelming annoyance I felt while I was reading.
If I had to give it a rating it would be 2 stars out of 5