Tea & Book Chat: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns #1)

Personal Thoughts: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake was hands down one of my most anticipated reads of 2016.  I had listened to Kendare talking about her inspiration for the book in a podcast I listened to at the end of 2015 (which attracted my interest because I loved Anna Dressed in Blood so much) and I was immediately like YES I NEED THIS.  She said that she came up with the premise for Three Dark Crowns when she heard about the way that bees choose their Queen- they give birth to potential Queen’s who fight to the death until the last one left standing takes over the hive as a ruler.  She thought about how that would be an interesting story, especially if applied to humans.  Yep, you probably want to read this book now too.

Plot Summary: Triplet sisters who were separated at the age of six must battle it out and be the last girl alive to take over the island of Fennbirn as Queen.  There’s Katharine- the poisoner, Mirabella- the elemental and Arsinoe- the naturalist.  The battle occurs once the girl turn sixteen and that’s pretty much all you need to know!

Critique: Three Dark Crowns is a much more politically driven novel than I had previously been expecting.  I ended up loving the story despite having heard some negative reviews early on which is why it took me so long to start reading it.  I did not want to be disappointed and thankfully, I wasn’t!  Blake spent a good portion of the novel setting up the world and the three sub-worlds for the reader.  I found the differences between the different areas of the island fascinating and I was immediately invested in Katharine, the poisoner’s, story.  I also enjoyed Mirabella who is the strongest of the triplets as well as the only girl to have had memories of her sisters and reservations about what they must do to take over the Queendom.  The only queen I wasn’t completely on board with was Arsinoe until the ending when everything got a whole lot more interesting.  I had heard complaints that there are too many characters to keep track of but I would have to respectfully disagree. I liked that each girl has her own very fleshed out world and it’s going to make the conclusion, One Dark Throne, that much harder to read because I’m partial to more than one of them!  The only element that seemed to be lacking for me was the romance which I was totally okay with because this female dominated society was more than enough to hold my interest.

Do I Recommend?: I do! The reviews are very polarizing on this one so you should read it for yourself to see where you fall.  If you struggle with slower burn fantasy, I might not suggest reading it but I’m betting there will be a ton of payoff in One Dark Throne.

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Kristin

Waiting on Wednesday: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly awaiting.  This week I’m choosing Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake.  Ever since I read Anna Dressed in Blood (and it’s sequel Girl of Nightmares) I knew that I would be reading all of Kendare Blake’s books.  I listened to her recent episode on the First Draft podcast which is how I found out about Three Dark Queens. The premise is fascinating and when I heard Kendare’s inspiration behind it I was even more convinced that this is a Kristin book.  In an interview with Hypable, Kendare explained her inspiration coming from “how the queen bee will leave her hive and lay some queen eggs, and whichever queen hatches first kills the others and gets to take over the old hive. And I thought…rad. How can I make people do that?”  In addition to the cover reveal last week, artwork of a map of the world by Virginia Allyn was also released and it’s stunning.  Also look at the cover!  I’m hoping / guessing that the design of each crown is based on the region each potential queen was raised.  They remind me of Rapunzel, the Fire Nation and The Jungle Book respectively.

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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. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read Anna Dressed in Blood which is the first book in the duology by Kendare Blake, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

After devouring Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, which is the first book in the duology, I was eager to start Girl of Nightmares because I had to know what was going to happen to Cas, Thomas, Carmel and Anna.  I’m really pleased that Kendare Blake chose to tell this story as a duology instead of stretching it out into a trilogy.  While I enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood more than Girl of Nightmares, I felt very satisfied with the conclusion.  I would love if one particular thing could be addressed in a short story at some point, but overall there is definitive closure.

While the first book focused largely on Anna, the second book dealt more with Cas’s emotions following the aftermath of book one.  The pair were the perfect compliment to one another and I loved learning more about the history behind Cas’s world although I truly wished for more of Anna’s perspective because of what a strong willed and non-damsel-in-distress character she is.  Anna is a scarier read overall, but Girl of Nightmares certainly has its moments (ie. the Suicide Forest).  There seemed to be so much at stake in the second book and having already grown attached to everyone every tension-filled situation weighed heavily on my heart.  Almost every decision made in Girl of Nightmares had the potential to be life altering, and absolutely was in some cases.

Girl of Nightmares

In the first book, Anna was my clear favorite character but in the second, Thomas earned that place.  I was so invested in his relationship with Carmel and his unwavering loyalty toward Cas even when others were dismissing him.  Plus, Thomas is the perfect comic relief.  For a series that’s so beautifully creepy and terrifying, Thomas still managed to make me laugh out loud at points.  My favorite Thomas scene involved his reaction to something he ate during Cas and his quest for information.  Cas, Carmel and Thomas each bring something vital to the table and together their trio is a force to be reckoned with.  We’re also introduced to a new character whom I would love to read about in a spinoff series.  She’s an intelligent teenager who enjoys a good challenge.  She’s the kind of character who can disagree with someone fundamentally but still manage to get along with them on other levels.

Final Thoughts:  Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake provides a very satisfying conclusion for fans of Anna Dressed in Blood.  Blake continues the story with her signature imagery which flawlessly blends the beautiful with the horrific.  The stakes are high in this installment and the tension runs deep for all the characters involved.    If you’re a fan of horror and flowery language you should definitely give this duology a read!

Rating 5

It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor. (via Goodreads)

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BookTube: Top 5 Wednesday: Halloween Recommendations

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday category is Halloween recommendations which is appropriate since Halloween is only 3 days away! For some reason my subconscious decided to type decorations instead of recommendations in the first sentence which shows much being festive is always on my mind on some level so that’s normal.  Are there any specific books that you recommend for Halloween?  Doing my video has given me the desire to re-read some of Neil Gaiman’s books<3

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood #1)

The first book I completed from my horror-filled TBR pile for October is Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake and it was the perfect ghost story to really get me into the spirit of Halloween.  It’s the first book in a duology (the second being Girl of Nightmares).  I loved it so much that I’m really looking forward to diving into more of the horror I have planned for this month!  The story follows Cas, a ghost hunter following in his dead father’s footsteps, who moves to a little Canadian town to hunt his latest tip about a very hostile ghost named Anna.  Cas lives with his mom who’s a witch, their black cat Tybalt and his most prized possession is his athame which he uses to slay ghosts.

As someone who is scared by just about everything, I was expecting nightmares and to feel unbearably spooked while reading but I was so interested in Cas and Anna’s stories that I was too enthralled to feel scared (except for one time when I had to mentally prepare myself to go upstairs alone).  The book has a very Supernatural feel to it and I couldn’t help picturing Sam and Dean’s car in the first chapter.  Cas is not your average teenage boy (being a ghost hunter and all) and though he’s never been open to getting attached to people he falls into developing some friendships in this new town.  Anna, the ghost he’s hunting, has an exceptional story.  She’s often thought of by Cas as a goddess of death.  She haunts the halls of a small Victorian house and she wears a long white dress that’s soaked in blood and because the fabric is oversaturated, the sound of blood dripping onto the floor is audible when anyone is in her presence.  She’s different than any other ghost he’s dealt with thus far.

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Kendare Blake’s writing gives way to imagery that is creepy and descriptive and it really romanticizes all of the elements of the story.  It made everything feel spooky but with an underlying beauty.  As I was reading, I kept going back to past paragraphs just so I could spend more time imagining the scenes and really seeing the setting.  I became so invested in finding out about Anna’s past.  The characters – main and supporting – are delightful and the plot just hooked me from the beginning.  I also really enjoyed the pacing of the novel because it felt like something was always happening.  There were never any lulls in action or story and it interwove the two elements beautifully.

Final Thoughts: If you’re looking for a scary book to get your mind into the Halloween season but you don’t want to sacrifice plot (seriously, some horror YA novels are just terrible), you should definitely consider reading Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.  It’s a gorgeously written ghost story and the imagery will transport you to Cas and Anna’s worlds.  You won’t be able to put it down because Anna’s story is so engaging and it’ll keep you up way past your bedtime!
Rating 5
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas’s life. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin