Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns #1)

Action, alternating narration, families, Fantasy, Female Leads, Series

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!


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September 2017

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Defy – Sara B. Larson

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It’s Aria Stark!

Well not really, but Alexa is disguised as a boy after her parents are killed by a sorcerer, village burned, and the army approaches the survivors. Marcel is her twin who quickly cuts off her curls and helps her create her new persona: Alex. (And can I mention how if the army had found Alexa as a girl she would have been sent to the “breeding house” – this book hits upon all of this within the first few pages)

Years later, Alex and Marcel are training as soldiers for Prince Damian. As rebels attack the palace, Alex(a) becomes Prince Damian’s nightly guard – an inconvenience for the female used to being able to dress less confining during the night.  Soon sorcerers return, our trio of main characters are kidnapped, and Alexa’s secret is out.  Sorcerers, secrets, and histories come out a little over half way through the book which left me wondering where this would go – so much so soon!  And the answer is: It went in a WONDERFUL direction.  This plot is more of an adult book so it’s definitely for the older teen (note: breeding houses, death, romance, and the fact that rape occurs in the breeding houses is mentioned numerous times).  Still, very brave and heroic characters, mysteries, and both good and bad sorcerers make characters rethink their belief of good and bad people in their society.

Definitely a “Girl Power” book.

Read more about the series from Sara B. Larson’s blog.


Series Continues: Ignite, Endure

Stitching Snow – R.C. Lewis

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A runaway Princess who is tech savvy, lives among miners, and who is an awesome computer coder….whose best friends are drones.  Definitely points for creativity on a popular royalty plot, which I somehow seems to be reading a lot of quiet accidentally.  And there’s also spaceships.

Essie is happy to live nearly to herself in a miner’s community where she programs the drones who work in the mines.  With the crash of a ship and introduction to a stranger, Dane, Essie is soon taken back to her Royal past.  Eight years have passed since Essie – real name of Snow – went missing, not all of the kingdom is happy to see her return, especially not the Queen.  In a time of “haves” and “have-nots” with misguided citizens and rebels fighting an eight-year war where the truth lies more with corruption than a cause, Essie and Dane not only must find the truth, but must survive each of the Queen’s attempts on their lives.

lunar

Older readers who are fans of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer will enjoy the allusion to Snow White.

As they return to Essie’s home, and hiding their plan to help end the war, Essie and Dane reunite with the King whose war imprisoned Dane’s father and the Queen who, stereo-typically, is the evil Stepmother.  By the end of this book I thought it tried a bit too far to be shocking young adult literature.  Essie certainly was a strong female character and a survivor before we learned the background of a sexually abusive father, but after she realizes what he’s done, we see she is even stronger. [She’s nearly raped by her King father (not the first time), unnecessarily in my eyes since it only gave obvious reasoning for Dane to kill him yet it didn’t lead to any truth seeking, revelation, or even mention later by Essie.]

My complaint with that realization being added is that it wasn’t needed for the plot and once the almost rape scene was over, it was never mentioned again.  Unlike a true victim of sexual assault, Essie had no processing or coming to terms with it.  It simply was forgotten.

It read more as an obvious reason for readers not to think Dane did wrong by killing him, but that murder was justified.  However, it had an opposite affect on me – I won’t buy or suggest this book, which is a shame since the whole computer savvy female was a character I was excited to root for.  If something came from Essie remembering the truth, or it added to the plot, I could overlook that scene and I would recommend this book carefully to my students; however, it adding to a plot with other holes, an unrealistic progression of events, and weak writing I don’t think I’ll continue with the series.  Shame really, the drones (one suitably named ‘Cusser’) were funny.


spinning-starlight-book

This companion, not sequel, actually sounds like a better book….. maybe I’m not finished with this story line of a tech savvy teenage girl in another galaxy trying to help others.  I always enjoy a plot that alludes to fairy tales.

For an interview with the author and more about Spinning Starlight click here.

The Red Queen – By Victoria Aveyard

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Mare, no not like a horse, but like an impoverished teen living in a caste society, faces a bleak future with her life already mapped out: to go fight in a war when she turns 18.  In doing so she follows her brothers into a never-ending war.  The Reds are the poor who must do as the Silvers command.

Her world soon turns upside down when her family loses some financial security, her best friend loses his apprenticeship and faces going to war, and she meets a kind stranger who gets her a job in the Palace.  Soon Mare discovers more about a rebellion as well as a power she didn’t know she had.  Secret powers a’la The Young Elites .  The King and Queen are shocked and angered that a Red has powers, which they believed only Silvers were given – being the superior and more prestigious people.  They cannot lock up Mare or kill her as there were too many witnesses who saw “little lightening girl” and Mare ‘s ability to control electricity.  Instead, they create a new backstory for her and engage her to their younger son Mason.

Mare begins living the lie knowing one mistake will be her death.  Living among her enemies, she finds a few friends who do not trust the King and Queen or the decades long war the Silvers force the Reds to fight.  As a rebellion begins, Mare understands more of her power, and friends and foes take on new roles, she must decide how far she is willing to go for the good of her people or her own safety.

This has the personal drama of Game of Thrones (with less of the political storylines, and adult content of course) and is more dark than The Selection, but fans of both would enjoy this for some of the wicked characters.


Sequel: Glass Sword (and she is working on a third)

The Selection – Keira Cass

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selection

In a future time, people are once again divided into castes (similarly as factions, districts, etc.) and the number of your caste not only decides your wealth, but also your career choice and the likelihood of marriage partners.  There is a monarchy with each country and the future kings choose their new bride from the local girls, both in an effort to remain loyal to the community and in a way to choose the future queen based on talents, intelligence, and looks.  It’s The Bachelor reality show meets royalty.  Once girls are 16 they receive an invitation to enter “The Selection” with girls from across their country, and all of the castes – but they have the choice whether or not they want to participate.

Our narrator, America, is in love with her friend and none of the parents realize it so they encourage her to enter the competition.  Why?  Because not only does the winner become royalty, but her family will move up into the realms of royalty and for the Singer family, artists and musicians and lower caste number, it means food and financial security.  As America is convinced to enter the Selection, she must say goodbye to her family and Aspen, and hello to her new life – with parties, fancy clothes, and the other girls for The Selection begins.

[This really is like The Bachelor for younger viewers]

As America enters the palace, and the selection process, she finds diversity among the girls, the few who are clearly trained on the formal practices of royalty, and finds a few friends.  A chance encounter with Prince Maxon grants her an early introduction, one in which she thinks the Prince may  not be so bad after all.  While she still isn’t interested in becoming his wife or falling in love with him, a friendship begins.

As the Selection process continues, America and Maxon get closer and she is informed of the groups of Rebels who attack the palace: Northerners and Southerners.  One group more violent than the other, but both attacking the palace for reasons Maxon isn’t sure. Soon the girls begin having feelings for Maxon, America included, at the same time more girls are sent home.  Of course right as America feels confident in her feelings, Aspen returns.

It’s an interesting plot if you like The Bachelor.  I’m curious as to how the plot continues, but I don’t think I’m rushing off to read the next installment.  I’ll read it eventually – but right now I have more enticing novels waiting for me.

Safe for 10 year olds – at least the first in the series.


Series Continued: The Elite, The One, The Heir