Review: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

I was lucky enough to get my hands on this sequel book ahead of time, and of course I read it right away because I actually had a lot of fun reading the first one.

…but I wasn’t in a large camp on that. The book previous to this in the series (the Three Dark Crowns series? tetralogy? I’m not sure), Three Dark Crowns, got a lot of mixed reviews, and I understand why. It introduces a whacky but fun premise—that triplet girls have to kill each other for the queenship when they turn 16, and that they trained in different strains of particular magic—but then proceeds…slowly. The first book spends a lot of time introducing each sister, her foster family, her love interests (and we spend a fair bit of time on romance, given the urgency of imminent death), the world, etc. It’s really mainly about them readying themselves for this murder-time and the political posturing that comes with their birthday celebrations.

Other than some of the romantic drama being kind of boring to me, I actually enjoyed the slow pace of the first book and the way that getting to know the characters surrounding and invested in each of these young women made me care about them and whether or not they’d win. I also liked getting a sense of their personalities, their different upbringings, their investments (or lack thereof) in becoming the queen.

One Dark Throne is definitely different. So let’s get to that.

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

One Dark Throne

One Dark Throne picks up not long after we left off in book one, and so the games of these sisters going after each other have really begun. It’s always hard to review a sequel while trying to avoid all spoilers, even for the previous book, so bear with me in my utter vagueness.

This book probably would’ve benefitted from me re-reading the first one right before getting into it, because it really doesn’t waste much time on exposition to reintroduce you to anyone. If your issue with Three Dark Crowns was that it was slow, but you got through it and are at least vaguely intrigued as to what will happen, then you will probably like One Dark Throne. The pacing is much faster, the romance is much more lighthanded, and things are getting much more murderous.

For me, though, this has its ups and downs. This book doesn’t spend a lot of time on character moments where you really feel the bonds between these queens and the people surrounding them as the first book did, so it was hard to emotionally reinvest myself in the characters. Which was probably important, because now the stakes are getting higher and people in the crossfire are going to die.

The first book ends with a mystery about something that happened to one sister and a revelation about another, and neither of those things are furthered particularly in this book. While the events seem to come at you fast in this book, it does feel, in contrast, that the author is really going to take her time with certain aspects, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

In any case, the mystery…has not much explanation, though someone investigates it (and then we don’t learn what was found out), and some stuff happens related to one sister’s revelation, but she personally doesn’t do much about it, so I was hoping for more there, too.

This book feels like it has decided to put forward a fourth main character, and the revelation about her is…a thing that brought up some mixed feelings for me. I wasn’t really too interested in this character other than her relationship to the queens, so the fact that this book lines up an arc of her own for her is…well, I’m not sure how much I care about that. But I’m willing to say that I might be more interested as it goes forward.

I do appreciate that by the end of the book, it feels like the author has changed the scope of the series, so that’s certainly interesting, although I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that, either. It could mean that the next book will be full of surprises; it could mean that the premise of these books will be extraordinarily dragged out. I’m obviously hoping for the former, but I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge of this author to know where this is going.

I feel kind of shaky about this book; it definitely ditched some of the overwrought romance of the first that felt tiresome, so that was great, and I don’t think I ever felt bored, but I think what I enjoyed about the first book was its character moments, which are fewer and farther between here.

Still, I’m not sure if I would like it more if I read it with the context of the first one more fresh, and I feel reasonably certain that most people will like this better. (It’s like Season 1 vs. Season 2 of Sense8. I am probably the one person who prefers Season 1.) I also feel like I’ll probably go on to read the third book, because it feels like the end of this book tore things open a bit, so that might be a different animal to the first two, and that could be a good or bad thing.

In a vacuum, though? This wasn’t my favourite. I was glad more happened, but I definitely think the book didn’t leave much breathing room to feel the emotional impacts, and after such a slow and angsty first book, that felt kind of like whiplash.

Overall:


Are you more into fastpaced action or books that are slower and more character-driven? Will you be picking up One Dark Throne? (If you had the issues I listed with Three Dark Crowns, you probably will like it better.) Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!

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