3.5 out of 5 stars
Who says the sequel can’t be better than the original? Or that titles with numbers in them should indicate the order of books in the series? (Actually, I do. That’s really confusing.)
In the second installment of her Three Dark Crowns series, Kendare Blake embraces the action. After cutting away from details of key events in the first book, here she lets each set piece play out fully. And they are good! It really improved the pacing and character development.
Katherine, Arsinoe and Mirabella are the triplet Queens pitted against each other in a war of elimination for the throne on Fennbrin. Raised to hate each other, the Queens grow up amassing their unique, Goddess-given powers for this fight to the death. This Ascension Year idea is very Hunger Games – and that would work fine, but in Book 2, it impressively becomes more. Few have power to manipulate the ascension, but all plot to manipulate the turnout in their favor. A number of possible new outcomes arise – all while the Queens try to figure out if they will, or even want to, kill each other.
The characters were Book One’s strong suit, and remain unique, likable and useful here. Tomboy Arinsoe is an easy favorite, glamorous Mirabella a bit more tortured. If weak Katherine bordered on pathetic before, she gets her turn here. After a brush with the deep, angry heart of the island, a chilling darkness flowed into Katherine’s watery veins. Now she’s strange and tormented, but roiling with power. A true Queen ascending.
Book Two has more love interests, political machinations, questionable parenting, and – always important – friendly animals. Mostly it has action. As the Queens are forced against each other, with reluctance or glee, they move toward the supposedly inevitable result: two must die. Yet alliances form, lies are told. Even the once-clear powers bestowed upon the Queens and the age-old format of the ascension come into question.
The first book in this series was just getting started, and One Dark Throne is where Blake’s tale of the Fennbrin Queens hits its stride.