The first of the series with the same title, the story begins with three queen sister (triplets) each facing the ceremony on their 16th birthday in which will not only validate their power, but will begin the time period where they should – and are expected to – kill the other sisters so she may be the true queen.
Each generation produces triplet sisters, all holding different magical abilities. Mirabella can control the elements, Kat (Katherine) is a poisoner and can ingest any poisons and survive, and Arsinoe is a naturalist who can control all things in nature. Each sister remembers a time before separated from her sisters, a time in which sister’s love was strong. Only now, each has advisers who not only prepare their queen for the fight ahead, but encourage murder for their queen’s survival.
As for the sisters, their ambition is only challenged with the memory of sisterhood. With suitors approaching all three girls as if the prize is marriage, they learn power is both isolating and, at times, unwanted. Each sister wants to be Queen, but the only way to become Queen is to eventually kill the other two sisters during the Ascension year. Each sister also has her strengths and weaknesses whether it is confidence, skill, or beauty. As suitors and servants provide allies and comfort (and many bears play a part), Mirabella, Kat, and Arsinoe also learn that they can be enemies too.
This story has lots of fantasy elements and some action, but at times I found it difficult to remember which sister was friends with other side characters and even how to balance the lives of the side characters when learning of their parentage. One great aspect is the growth they face by the end of this installment: one who was weak is strong, one who was confident is shaken, and one who felt powerless has a newfound power. Once I could follow who was supporting which sister, the night of the reunion was soon and the Quickening to begin the year of ‘try to kill your sisters so that you can be Queen’ was happening. So a bit confusing at first, but with some solid action at the end – and a cliffhanger of course!