Books: One Dark Throne

29923707One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
Published September 19, 2017
star-2-half
Those who adored Three Dark Crowns will likely enjoy this quick-paced sequel that furthers the stories of three sister Queens pursuing a single island throne. But for those less enthused by the first book in the series, One Dark Throne offers more of the same. This includes, but is not limited to, an interesting but underdeveloped setting, continued emphasis on romance to the detriment of all other relationships in the book, and a very young and not particularly sophisticated style of writing.

I wanted to like both Three Dark Crowns and One Dark Throne so much more than I ultimately did. Some of this is undoubtedly dissidence with what I was hoping for and what I got. The idea behind the books, of an island that chooses its ruler from a set of triplet queens, each with a gift (naturalist, poisoner, or elemental), has so much potential. There’s an opportunity here for a fascinating examination of feminism, of powerful women being used by their elders and turned against one another and forced to kill. In Mirabella there is the promise of familial affection and sisters who decide not to play the roles that have been set out for them, but sadly One Dark Throne delivers on only a fraction of this potential because the relationships between women, for the most part, play second fiddle to romantic attraction.

Some of this is to be expected – it is YA after all and the main characters are teenagers, but there is SO MUCH ROMANCE in these books. Blake spends far more time on each queen’s feelings towards her various suitors than she does on how these sister rivals feel about each other. It’s especially disappointing because the group of male suitors are virtually interchangeable, to the point where I would have a difficult time coming up with adjectives to describe each of them!

This is going to sound harsh, but one issue I have with this series is that I don’t think it’s well-written. With their emphasis on romance and lack of worldbuilding, Three Dark Crowns and One Dark Throne definitely read on the young side of YA. Although set in a fantasy-esque world that draws inspiration from fairy tales and the past, Blake seems to have decided to convey this by having the two sisters raised in proper settings, Mirabella and Katherine, speak without using contractions. I suspect it’s supposed to sound formal and historical, but since the rest of the dialogue is very contemporary, I just found the lack of contractions made the characters sound stiff and unnatural. If the goal is to set Arsinoe, the wilder tomboy sister, apart from the other queens, it could be accomplished in a more effective manner, for example, by having her speak using invented slang words.

There’s also a lack of skill shown through plot twists, such as (SPOILER) Jules’ legion gift, that read like they were not planned from the start of the series, but invented for this book. I understand that the series was originally intended to be a duology and has since been expanded to a planned trilogy, which probably accounts for the awfully convenient plot turns.

I also found the sparse worldbuilding disappointing. I could excuse a lack of information about the setting and culture of Fennbirn and the Mainland in Three Dark Crowns, but I expected the second book in the series to provide a better sense of how the Island differs from the Mainland, how it came to have this unusual method of governing, and why it is split into these different factions/gifts. Instead I don’t feel like any of my questions were answered to my satisfaction. Without spoiling too much, it looks like there may be some more information that will expand the world in book three, but after nearly 800 pages do I care enough to continue reading in some vague hopes of learning more? I don’t think I do.

Despite the negative review, I want to emphasis that I didn’t hate this. One Dark Throne is still a fun, quick read, it just doesn’t build towards answers or leave me wanting more. There may be more interesting things ahead for the characters in book three, but it doesn’t feel like there’s enough story left to carry two more novels when Three Dark Crowns and One Dark Throne have relied so heavily on “filler” scenes.

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8 thoughts on “Books: One Dark Throne

    1. It’s definitely still worth reading I would say. I had some issues obviously with both of the books in the series so far, but I still enjoyed reading them, and they make for really quick reads. I definitely think they would appeal more to a romance fan as well. I hope you enjoy the series Megan, and thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

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  1. I do have to agree with most of what you said on hind sight. Jule’s gift came out of nowhere in this book and didn’t feel well developed. The world building is lacking and the romances are just so weird feeling to me. Also, when I started book 2 I had forgotten so much from book 1 and felt that the writing did not give me enough flashback history like some books do.

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    1. Yay validation! It’s a difficult book to discuss because I feel like generally with a lower rating I didn’t enjoy a book, and I genuinely did have fun reading this and it’s a really quick read, I just kept noticing problems with it that kept me from ranking it higher. Still a fun guilty pleasure read though! I had the same experience as you with forgetting most of what happened! I remembered the big Arsinoe revelation and that was about it! I got about five pages in before I wound up reading a series recap website to remember what had happened in Three Dark Crowns. One Dark Throne could definitely use a better history of what came before!

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      1. Generally I think a 3 star rating is still good, it just means it could have been better. I really enjoyed it too but would have liked to have improvement on the areas we both agree on. I wish I had found that website before I read because I really only remembered the Arsinoe revelation too. Hopefully there will be more improvement in book 3!

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  2. You have written my feelings on this series exactly. After reading Three Dark Crowns, I had so many questions. I assumed that the characters and the world would be more fleshed out in the followup, but I was just left with more questions and increasinly frustrated that neither the characters nor the world have been developed much in this book.
    I’m also a little annoyed that this has been extended past a duology. Were this a two book series, I might have enjoyed it a bit more, but I think the extension will just result in more tangents rather than a deeper understanding of the characters.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment Josie. Although obviously I wish the book had been better, I’m really glad that I’m not the only one who thought it was disappointing! I suspect you’re right about the next two books just resulting in more tangents. The story seemed to be stretched really thin over just two books, so I have trouble believing the next two will be any better. I’m undecided as to whether i’ll continue the series or not.

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