3.5 out of 5 stars
I’ve gone back and forth in this series, giving increasingly better ratings as the story progressed:Three Dark Crowns got 3 stars, One Dark Throne got 3.5, and Two Dark Reigns got 4 stars. I had high hopes for the final installment – book four, though it has the number five in the title. (Don’t do this, please.)
Eeeehhhhhh, it came close.
Triplet Queens Mirabella, Arsinoe and Katharine, failed to uphold the ancient tradition of Fennbirn Island: to kill each other Hunger Games-style so only one remained to rule. But if they thought three queens running amok would be chaotic, a fourth queen arose: Jules, bearing more than one of the magical powers typically passed through family lines. Now they fight: usurper Jules vs. possessed Katharine, with Mirabella and Arsinoe doing their best to sow peace and stay alive.
Not everyone does live, and I give author Kendare Blake credit for that. I’m a fan of true peril, and not being afraid to x-out a main character. It’s used well here: it made me sad, it drove the plot, it was not convenient or wasted. Point for that.
- Sidebar: Katharine is pronounced Katareen, as if there were no h in her name. This is either an annoying hipster affectation or the narrator read it wrong early on, and couldn’t correct herself later.
Yet Blake’s struggle from Book 2 reared its head again: Katharine is dull. Sure she’s possessed by the demon remains of assassinated Queens, killed as children by their sisters and obsessed with reclaiming the power they never won. In this story, they come and go from Katharine – a weapon that controls her more than she controls it. But without them, Katharine is a wet noodle. Mirabella and Arsinoe, far superior characters, love and want to save their sister based on… us being told they do. I didn’t feel it, I didn’t see it. Katharine is alternately horrific and pathetic. It wore on me as a reader that “saving” someone so unredeemable because a main plot for this book. Especially when doing so is the cause for another main character’s demise. (Then there is Amelia, who I told to shut up out loud every time she repeated her low-rent, single-minded belligerence. Please delete her.)
The action is plentiful here, as Jules and Katharine prepare for war against each other. It’s all resolved in a single battle, of course, but the conflict evolves interestingly when the Dead Queens show their true power. The climactic scenes are worthy of four books of build up. The consequences feel real, and are paid by many. Overall, a satisfying end to a solid, ambitious series – even if you have to read it over Katharine’s sniveling.