My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Length: 448 pages
Release date: 19 September 2017
With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favour without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before – ones that put those around her in danger that she can’t seem to prevent.
In One Dark Throne, the enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s The New York Times-bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.
“‘You will not have your way this time,’ Katherine says, her lips close enough to the obsidian to kiss it. ‘We are coming for you.’
Katherine strips off her glove and places her hand against the cold, hard surface. Perhaps it is only her imagination, but she could swear that she feels the Goddess Stone shudder.”
I remember my initial amazement at the sheer volume of fan theories surrounding A Song of Ice and Fire as I clicked through westeros.org and r/ASOIAF posts to discover postulation after postulation, many of them tinfoil based off of nothing more than a few scant lines pulled from chapters with no relation to each other. At the very top of the totem pole you had R + L = J (of course), the greatest theory of all time. Then there were the A + J = T’s, the Grand Northern Conspiracy’s, the Pink Letter speculations, and on and on and on. The number of unsolved mysteries, both real and imagined, was staggering. The Three Dark Crowns series doesn’t quite reach that level of cloak-and-dagger hint-dropping, but it comes splendidly close for a combined length that’s only about half that of A Storm of Swords alone.
One Dark Throne, the second book in the planned quartet, is a real game-changer. We’re still playing the same game as in the first book, but more–of everything: More blood, more action, more feels. The body count is significantly higher. Although the three queens do have a considerable amount of plot armour, with more than a few deus ex machinas to save them at the last minute, the deaths that end up occurring are well executed if somewhat predictable.
Mirabella and Arsinoe were the “boring queens” in Book One, with Katharine the one I was invested in, the sister I was rooting for to win. Well, things have changed. Mirabella and Arsinoe really come into their own this time round. Mirabella’s standing up big time for what she believes in, more power to her.
Arsinoe’s sneaky and cunning yet has such a big heart–she embodies the healer side of the poisoners that they’ve supposedly forgotten, and puts it to use for the good. Awesome.
But, uh, Katherine, you sure you’re alright?
It’s not long before she goes full Three-Eyed Raven at this rate.
As for what I feel One Dark Throne could’ve done better, there are too many members of the sprawling cast that are introduced once in the first book then pop up again at some point in the sequel without explanation of who they are. Having read Book One months ago, I frequently found myself scratching my head to remember just who in the world someone was. The large cast size isn’t a problem itself, but lack of reminders as to their identity break the flow of the story every time I have to flip to the front to check if they’re included on the list, which many of them aren’t. A lot of the secondary characters could also have been developed better, especially the suitors. In fact, the only male character who actually leaves any sort of lasting impression on me is Pietyr. I have to admit that the narrative reversal in gender roles can be interesting to read, Blake’s high fantasy being the first I’ve ever read featuring a matriarchal world.
The other issue is the pacing of the first half, which definitely falls toward the slow burn end of things. Pacing picks up quickly after Midsummer, though, and at around 75% it’s full speed on to the climax and a chain of grand plot twists. If I had to name the best thing about One Dark Throne, it’d be the ending. It’s just a game changer that tops all those that came before it, setting the next book up as one of 2018’s most anticipated without being an unsatisfying cliffhanger.
Aaaagh, all I want is for the sisters to become best friends and end the cycle of killing. Is that too much to ask?? Yes. Yes it is probably.
Picture credits to durly0505.