I CANNOT talk about this book without giving out spoilers. I’m that pissed off at certain parts of the story and characters that I just don’t have it in me not to rant about them. So…you know…SPOILER WARNING from here on out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This is also going to be more of a rant with review elements, rather than a legit review of One Dark Throne, but I just can’t help it.
Here’s a quick recap of the main plot point so far: a set of triplet queens must fight to the death for ruling rites to the throne of their island. Mirabella is the elemental queen, the strongest and most gifted queen who is starting to falter. Katherine is the poisoner queen, once thought to be the weakest but who is now a real player in the game. Arsinoe is the naturalist queen with a game changing secret.
Ok, on to the review. Kirkus called this book “Achingly gorgeous and gruesomely fascinating.” – really?! Really Kirkus? You and I clearly did not read the same fucking book! I wanted aching beauty and amazing gore but instead I got broken promises and angst-ridden romances!
Let me start with the characters. Now admittedly all of the characters seemed a little more fleshed out in this book and they all became a little more likable. In the last book I didn’t really care about Mirabella much, and whilst that’s still fairly true for Her Royal Highness Queen Convenient Plot Development, I do like her a little bit more. I can easily see how those with no clear favourite queen could have a ‘Game of Thrones’ moment where allegiances and loyalties change throughout the story.
But to me Mirabella and Arsinoe are still fairly interchangeable characters. I know that’s likely pissed off a fair few people, but that’s nothing compared to what I’m about to say next (which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who read my review of the first book) – I don’t care about Jules! Can we just kill her already please? She’s not a queen! I know the townspeople love her but I’m so over her. I genuinely think Kendare Blake forgets that Jules is not a main character, she’s not a queen and she shouldn’t get half the page-time she does! I don’t care about her gifts, I don’t care about her love interests (the relationships or the actual characters) and I’m sick of seeing her treated like a protagonist.
“It wasn’t like I read in books. A thunderclap.
Eyes meeting. Tortured glances. With Arsinoe it was more like . . . having cold
water poured down your back and learning to enjoy it.”
Now on to the actual queens. This novel wants me to seriously believe that no one in this world figured out that the queens were switched at birth? NO ONE? Not even Natalia?! Let’s put the ‘behind-the-scenes’ knowledge together: the ‘poisoner’ queen shows absolutely no natural resilience to poison and the ‘naturalist’ queen shows absolutely no promise of getting her familiar. The ‘poisoner’ queen had this unusually close relationship with a snake – one might call it a natural gift with this particular snake. The ‘naturalist’ queen loses control of her ‘familiar’ despite this being rarely (if ever) heard of for naturalists…ever!
You’d think someone in this world would have put 2 and 2 together. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s just obvious for us as readers because we have all the puzzle pieces and they don’t. Fair enough, it’s not like they have all this information along with something glaringly obvious…like their fucking names! Katherine, the true naturalist queen – shortened to Kat by a lot of people…CAT! Arsinoe, the true poisoner queen, sounds an awful lot like the incredibly powerful poison arsenic, doesn’t it?
Christ the characters in this world are dense.
Katherine is my queen. This isn’t news to anyone who has spoken to me about this book, or read my review of Three Dark Crowns or seen my Instagram feed. I stand behind Kat all the way. But there were a few things that let me down about her in this story.
The first is that I feel like the whole arc about what happened to her in the Breccia Domain was handled poorly, I’ll even go so far as to use the word messy. Hopefully this will be something that’s fixed in the next two books.
“But everyone knows that the Breccia Domain is more than an empty hole in the earth. Who knows what happened to the queens who were thrown down into the dark? Into the heart of the island, where the Goddess’s eye is always open. Who knows how she kept those queens or what she turned them into!”
The second is that I have a bit of a believability issue with her becoming literal poison. I know that this is fantasy and that something wrong with Kat, but this just pushes the believability to the limit for me. If she truly was the poisoner queen and she was so inherently strong she had poison blood or something I could believe that, but she’s not –she’s just ingested a shit load of poison for 16 years.
I know the story is trying to call for a way to have no more triplet queens be introduced, but having it so that Kat can’t be physical with a man without killing him as a means to stop her carrying a child is a bit lazy. It would be far more believable (and tragic) to me that ingesting all those poisons has rendered her infertile. Can you imagine how much more harrowing that would be for her? Sweet, innocent Katherine has led a pretty miserable life this whole time and has been forced to ingest poisons when she’s not even the poisoner queen and because of that she can’t have children now. But no, we’re going with the ‘Rogue from X-Men’ treatment.
The third issue that I had with Kat was there was so little confliction in her! She’s possessed (or something) by countless pissed off, restless and vengeful spirits of murdered teenage girls and honestly she behaves like any normal 16 year old playing on the mood swing! Come on Kat! Where’s your twistedness? Where’s your hate, your rage, your passion? I want to feel white-hot with you! Instead I get ‘bath water that’s slightly too hot so I’ll leave it for 5 minutes’.
Katherine – my queen – please give me more. I’m rooting for you but you’re not making it easy!
“No matter how far I go, I’m still your person. We stand together now.”
It’s not all bad character-wise though. Billy was still pretty good, and I liked Pietyr. Honestly, the balls on that guy to come back! I really wanted a blood-thirsty and primal showdown between him and Nicolas, but never mind.
As much as the previously mentioned wishful-thinking showdown would have been romantically driven, I do think that there was far too much focus on romance in this book. FAR too much. Obviously there’s what’s going on with Jules, but fuck Jules.
These queens are fighting to the death! And not just any old death – a damn near guaranteed violent and unpleasant death. It’s difficult to believe that with that shitstorm going on in their lives their main focus is on romance -especially when they all already have entourages of friends and family – it’s not like they’re alone. I know that hormones will rage in teenage girls but the whole time they have half their attention elsewhere!
I guess the thing that’s bothered me the most about this book, the thing that has me flipping between disappointed and angry every other minute when I’m thinking about it, isn’t the characters, or the subplots or anything like that, it’s that the book hasn’t given the readers what it promised.
We are two books in and we still have three living queens. At least one should be dead by now! I want more blood, more death, more gore! This is a death match on a large and regal scale! Where’s my Royal Rumble? Where’s the threat? Ultimately I think that it’ll end up being Kat vs Jules in the final face-off, but so far no one of any great note has died yet. I want a dead queen (or Jules).
I know I sound angry, but I’m honestly more disappointed. Three Dark Crowns is in my Top 5 favourite reads of 2017 and I had such high hopes for it. This series had so much promise! Hopefully the next two books will make up for it!
This series has been all talk and no action so far but I will still continue to read it! I know this review makes it sound like I didn’t like the book, that’s not true; I’m just being hard on it because I feel so let down. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It’s nowhere near as bad as the Red Queen series – it’s redeemable.
So let’s hope that One Dark Throne is just suffering from a mild case of sequelitis and it can come back kicking, and killing!
“But I have more important things to think about right now.”
Want to find out if you agree with me? You can get One Dark Throne here!
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.