"In every generation on the island of Fennbirn
A set of triplets is born; Three Queens,
All equal heirs to the crown,
All possessed of a coveted magic.
Mirabella, a fierce elemental, can spark
hungry flames with the click of a finger.
Katharine, a poisoner, is known to be
resistant to the deadliest of snake bites.
Arinsoe, a naturalist, is rumoured to have
the ability to bloom the reddest of roses.
But becoming the Queen Crowned is not just a
matter of royal birth. These three sisters must
fight to the death for the throne, and on the night
they turn sixteen the battle begins.
Only one queen can inherit the crown.
Whose side are you on?"
Okay, so I came across this book on bookstagram when it was released; so, of course, I had to grab a copy! As it sounded really different to the YA I’ve been currently reading, I had super high expectations.
So this book is about three sisters (or the three Queens):
Katharine. The first thing that struck me was that Katharine was kind; most notably shown through the love she has for her pet snake, 'Sweetheart' (who is, of course, poisonous). Katharine is supposed to be a queen, yet she allows the Arrons (a poisoner family charged with her care) to treat her like she’s beneath them. Katharine is weak, and the Arrons will do almost anything to ensure she doesn’t fail them.
The book then takes us to sister number two; Arinsoe, the naturalist. Arinsoe is rumoured to be extremely powerful, but as we’ve seen with Katharine, Arinsoe has not yet received her abilities. Arinsoe’s friend Jules is the most powerful naturalist in over a century. She looks after Arinsoe, trying to train her. Most naturalists have ‘familiars’, such as birds or dogs, cats etc., but Arinsoe has yet to meet her familiar.
And finally, sister number three; Mirabella – the elemental. Mirabella lives up to her reputation: she is powerful, beautiful, and above all else, the favourite to win the crown. But Mirabella has a weakness; she’s not very gifted in controlling water. Mirabella is favoured by the priestesses to win; Luca, the ‘head’ priestess, is Mirabella’s mentor. Despite being separated as children, Mirabella still remembers her sisters, and she’s also kind-hearted.
So that’s the run down on the three sisters.
The three queens haven't seen each other since they were six years old. The sisters are brainwashed into hating each other, to want to kill each other before one of the others kills them. This is apparently the kingdom’s tradition, and tradition must be upheld (why can’t people think for themselves?!). Nature vs nurture anyone?
The only time the sisters were allowed to see each other is at the ‘Disembarking’, a ceremony where they are presented to their 'suitors'. In the events leading up to the ceremony, Arinsoe and Jules’ best friend, Joseph, is reunited with them (he was banished for trying to help Arinsoe escape). Joseph brings Billy with him, the son of the family he lived with during his exile. Billy also happens to be one of the suitors who will vie for the winning queen’s attention – I’d say heart, but the girls are made out not to have one.
Once I reached this point in the book, I hate to say it, but everything seemed to become ‘filling’. The novel starts well, albeit slow paced, but then drags part way through.
I found the most exciting part of the book to centre around Joseph and Mirabella’s interaction, but again, this (and its consequences) were left unexplored. I hope Blake expands upon Joseph’s thread further in the next novel.
Despite all the drama of their ceremony, the sisters are still just pawns in a larger game. The priestesses have plans to sacrifice Katharine and Arinsoe, so that their choice will win (since its clear Mirabella won’t kill her sisters). But the priestesses aren’t the only ones with plans: the poisoners and naturalists each have their own ploys.
But the real drama occurs after ceremony. And let’s just say, the aftermath isn’t pretty. But all three sisters are alive, although Katharine has disappeared. Katharine had fled the ceremony to her friend, Pietyr, where they confess their love for one another. But then the story just lost me. Pietyr pushes Katharine off the cliff into a bottomless pit (where all the other dead queen’s bodies are said to be) and I’m left there with my mouth wide open saying ‘WTF just happened’… Just, WTF?! (She’s lives… well, sort of).
We conclude with Arinsoe, who’s with Billy, Jules and Joseph. Billy’s given Arinsoe sweets, that, unbeknownst to them, have been poisoned by Katharine. After consuming the treats, Jules is left gravely ill, but Arinsoe confesses that she also ate a sweet, and didn’t become ill at all…. BECAUSE SHE IS A POISONER!!! Completely explains why she doesn’t have a familiar, right? And Katharine can’t handle poison… So how in the hell did they manage to send the queens to the wrong families?! I have to admit, it definitely set the second book up well.
To be honest though, I really struggled to write this review. There were so many things I enjoyed about this book, but there were also an equal number of issues that had me wanting to throw it out the window. One of my biggest gripes was the pacing: the book was very slow for the first two thirds. I understand that Blake was setting the novel and series up, but it felt like there was too much ‘filler’. And on a personal level, I also found it utterly annoying how the three sisters are just so gullible and easily controlled by other people.
And, to be honest, I don't actually understand why the queens are even important in the first place. The whole system seems flawed. Each time they want to have a new queen, they need to have a set of triplets, but, it’s the families who adopt the girls that assume power. So what do the queens actually do?? I hope this is explored in the second novel, because as far as I see it, all the queen does is produce offspring and then disappear off the face of the earth.
All in all, I actually did enjoy this novel… in the end, anyway. But I expect the second book to explore a lot of issues that were raised – and not answered – in this story.