- Page Count: 416
- Release Date: September 20, 2016
- My Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads book description:
Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.
If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.
I AM SHRIEKING INTERNALLY RIGHT NOW at how genius that ending was.
I almost called this a DNF towards the beginning because there were so many characters and I didn’t know what was happening, but I’m so glad I stuck with it because this book became absolutely amazing. I NEED the sequel now!
The whole story is just so delightfully creepy, intense, and yet somehow super emotional. It really wasn’t as dark as I thought it would be, which I actually enjoyed. I heard that it was inspired by bee queens (like how multiple potential queens are born in a hive and they all kill each other so only the strongest one lives). It also reminded me of Game of Thrones at times, but was completely original.
Three Black Witches are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends.
Three Black Witches, all fair to be seen
two to devour
and one to be queen
The story starts with Beltane approaching during the Ascension Year, when the three sisters will display their powers and then have exactly one year to kill the others for the crown. They’re also presented with suitors, who are basically courting the crown. The girls have been raised separately by those with each sister’s respective powers, so they’ve kind of wound up as puppets being controlled by scheming adults.
- Katharine is the poisoner, but her gift is seemingly weak. She doesn’t have the ability to survive any poison like she should, so she’s been steadily poisoned throughout her life in order to build an immunity. Now she’s super frail & covered in scabs, her hair is falling out, and she’s pretty starved for love. The nephew of the woman raising her becomes her main love interest, but he’s also got plans of his own.
- Mirabella is an elemental and the sweetest sister by far. She also happens to be the strongest. (The other two don’t really seem to have very much power). She genuinely does not want to harm her sisters and still remembers how they wanted to protect each other when they were very young. Mirabella grieved for a year after they were separated.
- Arsinoe is a naturalist whose gift is pretty much nonexistent. She has a wide group of characters supporting her to the point where her story almost feels like it’s more about her friend Jules at times. Jules was actually one of the strongest characters and had the most interesting story. I cared about Arsinoe the least, but her story does get more interesting as it gets tangled in with the rest.
Even though one of the potential suitors says that to befriend a queen “feels a little like befriending a cow on its way to slaughter,” each sister develops relationships to some extent. And it all turns into SUCH a wonderful tangled mess. There is a love triangle, but it’s definitely not the one you’d expect.
I really enjoyed the premise, the medieval-type fantasy setting, and how invested I was in the story, but it did take me time to connect with this book. It took a bit of effort to get at the story and keep everyone straight, so the execution could have been better. I didn’t totally click with the present tense writing style at first, either, but that’s just me.
I would have liked to have seen some stronger worldbuilding, though. I was confused at times over where exactly everyone was, the history of the Black Council, and just… how this world works. Each sister has what feels like a complete story: a complex world, full set of secondary characters, and their own motivations & problems. So maybe less time on the secondary characters and a bit more on the sisters would have helped me?
But I still cared about everyone and have no idea who I want to win or how this should/could end! The end was pretty unexpected — I’m glad this story isn’t too predictable.
Basically I can’t deny that I wasn’t terribly into this story until around 25%… so hang in there. The awesome plot more than makes up for any minor issues. I just loved the plot twists and how everything unfolded!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC!