My rating: 4/5
I was thoroughly happy with book two of the Three Dark Crowns series . After reading the first one I had some serious worries that the series would be too obvious and not touch on the dark notes I saw the potential for. It seems my worrying was for naught. I was so invested in all the characters throughout the book and could not put it down. While the first book was still focused on the three sisters that would probably have to kill each other, I never felt the danger. This book had me on the figurative edge of my seat. One of my issues with the first book was that I felt disoriented in the world, is definitely still a problem in this book. In a lot of ways the world has grown but I still don’t have a really good idea where things are or what life is like. If I were to say try and write a side story set in this world I would have nothing to go off of. While what we know of the world is interesting, we don’t know nearly enough. You typically don’t see as much description and world building in YA as you do in say epic fantasy, but I still think this series needs more. Because of that, this reads very fast. There isn’t much for me to picture or imagine. When I read I like to play out the story in my head, but I really wasn’t able to do that. But still, the story is good and I don’t think YA readers will have too big an issue with the lack of world building, because that tends to be the case with most of the genre (other than the best of the best of course).
Arsinoe is still my favorite. She is even more badass, despite everything that has happened to her. And her relationship with Billy is sweet. It is not all encompassing as romance tends to be in YA novels, it is brief and delicate which makes it come across as that much more authentic. He is a character that I have definitely grown very fond of in this book. While he may not be a very rounded character in regards to flaws and growths, I enjoy reading about him and his actions in this book give him more depth.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about Katherine. I don’t want to give too much away, but after what happened at the end of the first book she has definitely changed a lot as a character. She is in some ways even more bad ass than Arsinoe and I love getting to see that side of her. It is satisfying to see her become something more than a pincushion and take her life into her own hands. There are still the conflicting emotions I have towards her, which you will understand when you read this. Pietyr is… I don’t know. He is absolutely an interesting character and his interactions with Katherine are very entertaining. They are both so well developed in that the scenes with the Poisoners truly made me feel unsettled and I love dark fiction. As warning, there is a serious love triangle going on with Katherine that I do not like. I also feel mildly disappointed that so much of Katherine’s perspectives were filled with this love triangle. It did do a really good job showing the way she has changed, but it meant less satisfying bad assness to enjoy.
Mirabelle has redeemed herself somewhat in my eyes. I still hold a grudge for the lack of a reaction about Bree’s hand, but I have grown to respect her and the Queen that she could be. She just isn’t as interesting as Katherine or Arsinoe for me.
I am in turmoil over the end of the book, and it surprised me completely. On one hand, it wasn’t what I expected out of a YA novel, it seemed abrupt and out of place. But the more I think about it, I really appreciate it. I do not know what is going to come next, which is refreshing and making me a bit impatient for the next book. I look forward to seeing these characters grow even more as their situations at the end of this book are completely different than they were at the end of the last one. It is like we are starting to head into uncharted territories in regards to where this story has taken us so far. There are still so many mysteries that need solving and questions I want answered.
My rating: 4.5/5
I decided to read this book when Skullsworn showed up in a list of recommendations for me. While it is listed as being a prequel set in the same world, I wanted to read the main series first in the order he wrote them. In my experiences, when fantasy series come out with standalone novels or a side series in the same world focusing on the story of a side character, you often find a very evolved world and good characters. So I set myself to reading the first in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series and I was not disappointed!
There are a few characteristics that I find in almost all of my favorite books fantasy novels: a well-developed world, a fair amount of danger and grief, flawed characters that change throughout their journey, and developed secondary characters. The Emperor's Blade met all of those and after reading I found myself purchasing hardcover copies to sit on my shelf.
The Emperor's Blade is about the three children of an Emperor of an imperfect land full of conflict, political scheming, and mystery. Kaden, Valyn, and Adare are three very different people despite being siblings. They grew up separately in differing environments that shaped them and the way they see the world. This give a very diverse feeling to the POVs. I won't go into much detail about them because the description of the book covered that. Some of the reviews have complained about the immaturity of the three, but I personally enjoyed it. Kaden, Valyn, and Adare are young and are very much still learning. They have a lot of room to grow in, this is only the first book. I don't normally like it when you have a character that is young, maybe late teens or early 20s, and is already an amazing leader/warrior.. It is less interesting when they don't have to struggle or learn or grow. Most of this book, and I would expect maybe the next book or two, have a coming-of-age feel too it without being too YA.
Now, I do have a few criticisms, mostly of the writing style. The author tended to tell you things instead of letting the reader notice them on their own. I prefer it when readers have the opportunity to observe things themselves to an extent which can lead to some fun differing interpretations. This kept me from really having strong feelings for some of the characters, especially some of the minor ones. However, I believe this is the author's first book so I am hoping I will see a lot of growth in his newer books. There is some really good world building and apparent influence from more than just the typical western europe medieval era which is refreshing.
I definitely recommend reading this book!
My rating: 4/5
Reading the description for Three Dark Crowns gave me very high hopes for this series. I love fantasy with some darker elements, especially when you aren’t sure of the ending. It is, however, clearly very YA. You have three parts of the kingdom separated by their magic: the Poisoners, the Naturalists, and the Elementals. They each value different traits and skills and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. This societal structure reminds me of YA books like Divergent and The Hunger Games. In general, I enjoyed this read and look forward to the rest of the series. It is interesting, different, and I feel invested in the characters.
The series focuses on triplet queens that must fight and kill each other during the Ascension year, the last standing becoming the Queen Crowned. The book description was a bit misleading to me, because while Mirabella is a strong elemental indeed, Katharine and Arsinoe did not appear to have much of their apparent magic like it suggested. This was a good thing to me though. It allowed for some real struggle. The culture surrounding the festivals of Beltane and the Quickening seemed very pagan to me and I thoroughly enjoyed them. It is strange getting attached to different characters that are all supposed to kill each other.
Mirabelle seemed very young to me. The elemental queen, the powerful and beautiful one, didn’t seem to be very aware of how her actions would affect people. This gives a lot of room for her to grow as a person, which I hope she does, because she was my least favorite queen. Something happens to one of her friends and it made me so mad! Not just that it happened, but because Mirabelle did nothing about it. I would have knocked the whole place down and buried it in rubble. This might have been the key moment that made me dislike her.
Katharine, the poisoner queen, came across as weak with no agenda of her own. She was abused her whole life and never grew a backbone. I found myself hoping she would stop following orders throughout the entire book. I pitied her a lot, but I did like her more than Mirabelle. There is something there that I cannot wait to come out. She isn’t immune to poisons like she should be, but she is a very good poisoner. This suggests some darker aspects to the small queen that are in direct contradiction to her weak nature. I can imagine that if she grows, she could be a force to be reckoned with.
Arsinoe was by far my favorite. She is loyal to her friends, stubborn, and refuses to compromise to meet the expectations of others. Not only that, but she has perhaps the weakest chances for success from the beginning of the book but still manages to be dedicated and keep trying. Her perspectives also had the most developed and interesting secondary characters. I loved Jules.
The way the island was separated by the types of magic seemed very YA to me. I don’t find it that realistic that you would have these groups so completely separated. Neither creates a very well-rounded or would support a very successful economy. I would have liked to see some more blurred lines between the three groups. I don’t think it helped give a good representation of the Island they lived on. I never got much of an idea of what the people living between the magic-dominated areas were like, or even much of an idea of how they all connected. I don’t know if I was just reading too quickly at the beginning, but it took me awhile to realize that the Poisoners, Naturalists, and the Elementals all lived on the same Island. At first I thought it was just the Naturalists. I was fairly disoriented throughout the book which kept me from really getting sucked into the story.
The obvious resolution of this series is that the three queens with their loyal followers will band together and topple the strange system that has sister killing sister. I really hope it isn’t quite that simple. This series has a lot of potential and I would love to see it go somewhere unexpected.
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