The Premise: on a weird island, every generation triplet queens are born. They have magic powers and stuff, and are taken in by different communities according to their ability. Their mum disappears to pilates or something. When they come of age, the three sister queens have to FIGHT TO THE DEATH for the right to be the actual queen. Whatever happened to sharing, hmm? In this instance, it’s Katherine, Arsinoe and Mirabella who are lined up for the Sister Death Match. One can eat poison. One can control the elements. The other one complains a lot.
Happy Bookworm: There were lots of things about Three Dark Crowns that I liked. The whole premise really appealed to me (not in a “I’d like to destroy my sister” way, just to be clear; aside from anything else, my sister would wipe the floor with me); it’s very dark and vicious, with some very gruesome events. I liked the idea of each sister being raised according to her power, with the whole population of the island stoking the flames of the rivalry between them. I was also excited about the prospect of such a female-dominated story; aside from the three sisters, there’s an extensive cast of surrogate mothers, friends and servants to add to the story.
Without actually giving it away, the book also has an extremely good ending. So, there’s that.
Sad Bookworm: Hmm. The thing is, you can have a brilliant and exciting premise, but, if the execution is dull and plodding, all that feverish anticipation will be lost, and that’s what happened here. Splitting the narrative between the three sisters makes complete sense, but it means you never really get sufficiently absorbed in any of them. And while the massive cast of characters gives the book variety, it also makes it very confusing, and the focus is occasionally bizarre; for example, Arsinoe’s best friend, Jules, is far more interesting than the queen and is given a lot more character development. Although she has a lot of romance nonsense going on and that whole aspect to this book was pretty boring.
I would also have liked to have seen a bit more focus on the whole “sisters being forced to massacre each other” thing. Although they’ve been brought up separately and barely know each other, surely sisterly ties should count for something when it comes to complicating your murderous feelings? I felt like this was a missed opportunity.
In Conclusion: Three Dark Crowns was not quite as good as I hoped it would be. Although it makes me sound like a sociopath, I think a dark premise needs a darker execution, and too much of this book was just spent with people sitting around before anyone fought with a bear or did a fire dance (actual plot events). If I’m going to commit to reading a sequel, I will want guarantees of action and carnage, please.