Review: Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Review: Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

One Crowned, Two Exiled, A Revolution Rising.

The battle has been fought, blood has been spilt and a queen has been crowned, but not all are happy with the outcome.

Katharine, the poisoner queen, has been crowned and is trying to ignore the whispers that call her illegitimate, undead, cursed.

Mirabella and Arsinoe have escaped the island of Fennbirn, but how long before the island calls them back?

Jules is returning to Fennbirn and has become the unlikely figurehead of a revolution threatening to topple Katharine’s already unsteady rule.

But what good is a revolution if something is wrong with the island itself?’

The Three Dark Crowns series is one of my all-time favourites and I love the world that Blake has created with this series. The following review contains no specific spoilers, but it does contain broad references to events.

Two Dark Reigns is the third instalment in a four book series, following One Dark Throne, which saw Katharine the Queen Crowned and her sisters, Mirabella and Arsinoe, attempting to escape the island. The novel picks up soon after the conclusion of One Dark Throne, thankfully avoiding the need for lengthy exposition about what might have happened were a longer span of time to have unfolded between books. Of all the novels in the series so far, I would have to say that Two Dark Reigns seems to be the most well-paced, with no real lulls in the narrative. This is mostly owing to each of the groups of characters being followed holding clear threads of the story, with no real need for ‘filler’ scenes to remind the reader of what is happening with a particular character or group. I love it when narratives use elements of legends/history/myths as driving forces, and so was pleasantly surprised to find that this is something included in Two Dark Reigns. The novel opens with a look into the past that becomes crucial to the present, and though I found myself considering all sorts of theories as to what had happened and why it was so important, I didn’t quite manage to figure out every element of it before all was revealed.

I have to confess that I had trouble caring about Mirabella in Three Dark Crowns and One Dark Throne, but seeing her reaction to being separated from her sisters in The Young Queens and how she continued to behave at the temple, followed by her protectiveness of Arsinoe in Two Dark Reigns has done much to change my opinion of her. The events of Two Dark Reigns allow her to reclaim her role as ‘the eldest’ and look to her sisters as her family and not as enemies, while the environment she finds herself in seems to be one much more suited to her – and one that allows her to start considering a future that she couldn’t possibly contemplate before. It becomes much more clear in this book that Mirabella attempts to be ‘the adult’ (as she did when she was little) and make the best decisions she can for the people around her, even if they might not always be what they would truly want.

The biggest problem (though not really a problem…) I have had over the course of the series is that I still can’t decide who I want to ‘win’ – if there must be a winner at all. I adore Katharine and her dark and twisted moments, and cannot help but feel sympathy for her, given her upbringing and that she may be the one of the girls who knows the least about herself. She may be absolutely awful on occasion, but I struggle to see her as a villain and find that I don’t actively dislike her at all, as there are so many factors in play as concerns her behaviour and her having become the Queen Crowned. Arsinoe has many qualities that would make her an excellent ruler, for all that it isn’t what she wants. Of the triplets, she is perhaps the most open and unashamedly herself, her devotion to those she cares for – and to animals – something that makes her easy to care for in turn. To my mind, her bravery and compassion surpasses that of her sisters, for she certainly has less ‘power’ at her fingertips than they do, making her actions ones that often put her at greater risk, and yet she follows her heart and moral compass wherever they lead.

There isn’t a great deal that I can say about Jules and her role in the story without spoilers, but I can safely say that I did not like the people that she found herself with in Two Dark Reigns. As much as the families who raised Katharine and Mirabella (and, to a much lesser extent, Arsinoe) manipulated them as they grew, to see Jules in a similar situation with it done much more blatantly, while she still has very little understanding of all that she is, was painful. Great reading, but painful!

I can’t wait for the fourth book, though my heart might not be able to take it!

Publisher: Harper Teen (US)/ Pan Macmillan Children’s (UK)

Pub date: 4th September (US hardcover)/ 4th October (UK paperback)

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