One Dark Throne By Kendare Blake
Quick reboot and disclaimer, as always (don’t worry you are safe until I get to the disclaimer). If you remember from my review of Three Dark Crowns (Book #1) the New York Times Bestselling series by Kendare Blake, I really didn’t know what I was walking into and got completely blindsided. The review is linked (without spoilers for book 1).
I was determined to go into One Dark Throne (book #2) prepared. I created a bingo card. Don’t laugh. OK. Fine. Laugh. I brought in a buddy reader, the lovely Allisa White from Allisa White’s Book Blog (this is the link to her review of our buddy read) was armed and ready to walk into battle with me.
I still have to say that without a single doubt that Kendare Blake kicked my ass. Not only did I lose Bingo, I don’t even think I got a chip on the board. I don’t even think I was playing the right game. While I was playing Bingo, Blake sunk my battleship. She sunk my battleship, bankrupted me in Monopoly. And I’m pretty sure the Council of the Ninja Magic Conjuring Cats are drafting papers to change their headquarters to her house.
Resting Bitch Face Is Prepared.
The bottom line is that for everything Three Dark Crowns is, and it is 100% A LOT. One Dark Throne is so much more. There is less of the soap opera type drama. In other words, this sister is sleeping with that sister’s betrothed who playing both sides of the fence type of stuff simmers down.
And that all makes sense because One Dark Throne, in content and in character development, grows up A LOT. With that? It also gets much darker. It is the fairy tale nightmare, grotesque and enthralling from beginning to end.
Non-Spoiler Quick Thoughts
Three Dark Crowns is a dark fantasy book. I think that is pretty obvious. One Dark Throne is on a whole different level of dark. In Three Dark Crowns there was a zombie bear. They kept calling it diseased in this book and I don’t know why it was written as diseased… maybe I misread it, but it sure sounded undead or zombie like to me. I quoted this in my last review, but the bear is described as
“With its claws dragging through the mud and its head lolling, it looks as if someone has pulled it up out of a ditch already dead and forced it back onto its rotting feet… She smells something decaying. The bear’s fur moves the way dead fur moves when it is disturbed by colonies of maggots and ants.”
Maybe my mom has me watching The Walking Dead too long but that sounds undead to me. Either way… more on that later.
While the family sex drama has settled down. The murder plotting, horror, Game of Thrones political intrigue, most definitely has not.
Throughout One Dark Throne you have:
- Continued sisters plotting against each other, then teaming up against each other
- Councils plotting and then sometimes attempting to trade the life of the queen they are supposed to be back- that is just so wrong
- Let’s make a deal… but I had a deal… so… but… oh forget it.
- The horror… oh the horror…
FROM HERE ON OUT- There will be spoilers from Three Dark Crowns BUT NOT One Dark Throne
Being this is a backlist series- that might not matter at all… but just in case. Reviewing backlist titles is still new to me.
A note for those who have read the review of Three Dark Crown. I’m going to write this review differently. One because it is a buddy read and secondly because, again, this backlist reviews are new to me.
Also, continuing to write on with reviewing a whole series is a first (I didn’t review every book in Nevernight because the first was 3800 and that was enough). So, I am going to try and focus on different things etc… change it up.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Queen Katharine. I have to just get this out of my head. Whatever you think of that bear. Queen Katharine is the scariest female and maybe male character I can think of recently. I don’t hate her or like her. I skeerd of Katharine. Point blank skeerd.
She skewered herself. She didn’t take the knife to someone else (not in that scene). No. She flayed her face like one would carve a turkey at Thanksgiving Dinner.
Up until that point she had been sending little poisonous gifts to her sisters throughout the book. One of these “gifts” had led to someone losing their damn arm. But you can expect that after she got pitched off a cliff by her lover at the end of book one.
In fact, at the end of book one, I had sympathy for her and was behind her wanting revenge, really. So, I understood all of that mess. It was a bit far, but I got it. Plus, she was beefing herself up taking in all the extra poison to prove her worth and strength as a poisoner. DO YOU POISONER QUEEN!
Until things started getting weird
“Katharine, please,” he whispers. “You will kill yourself if you keep on this way.”
Katharine’s head swivels loosely on her neck. When she speaks, her voice is rasping and strange, hardly her own.
“Do not be ridiculous, boy. You cannot kill what is already dead.”
Then Queen Katharine says hold my tainted wine. In fact, do a Queen a favor and shove it down my sister’s throat. Thanks.
Then she flayed her own damned her face. There are other things, too. But hey spoil important events. I think I’ve made my point here. So, I’m gonna move on.
Mirabella and Arsinoe
I didn’t see them sorting everything out in book two. Although I really hoped they would, eventually. I just didn’t see it happening in One Dark Throne.
The one moment Mirabella tried to reach out in Three Dark Crowns, the priestesses showed up and made it look like a set-up. It was also when she slept with Joseph.That was one of numerous misunderstandings between the two of them in the first book.
One Dark Throne picks up with Mirabella seeking revenge on Arsinoe by heading directly to Wolf Spring. Knowing that she will destroy everything and everyone in her wake, Arsinoe heads out to meet her in the woods.
When Arsinoe refuses to use her low-magic familiar to deliver a death blow, Mirabella is forced to reconsider the dynamic of their relationship.
Throughout the rest of the story they form an alliance as Katharine becomes more dangerous (beyond the dangerous nature of an Ascension year) and erratic. They will not sacrifice each other, nor let Katharine take them out, either.
I do love the fact that their arc is a sister arc. My only disappointment with Chosen (Slayer #2) was that instead of Buffy and Nina saving each other, a boy became involved. That didn’t happen here, and I love it.
The only weak link in this story line lays with Arsinoe. At the end of Three Dark Crowns, she discovered she was a poisoner. Except for certain events I can’t discuss, it isn’t something she develops or uses to her advantage as far as vying for the crown. I expected it to play a much larger part than it did. I can understand her keeping up the red herring of being an elementalist, for the element of surprise. But I didn’t expect it to just go undeveloped. I hope it comes into play in the coming books.
Let’s Hear It For The Boys
Most of the boys in One Dark Throne went through some major growth. I do have to say that Billy had the greatest amount of growth even if he still had the best captain obvious statement, yet again.
To revisit his captain obvious statement from Three Dark Crowns (remember, this is book one):
“Do no sisters care for each other on this island?”
Now, again, 70 or maybe even 80% through One Dark Throne, he has this stunning revelation:
“In his mind she was a nurturer, kind and comforting… but the woman he met was hard and decisive. Perhaps <it> had changed her. Or perhaps there were more sides to a woman than he had ever understood.”
I can’t WAIT to see what stunning insight Billy has in Two Dark Reigns. I was very impressed with Billy throughout One Dark Throne, aside from picking on Billy for being Captain Obvious. It is a shame I can’t say specifically why.
Generally speaking, he owned his feelings, made savvy political decisions, honored those that he believed in at every turn and truly acted like a man, rather than the manchild in Three Dark Crowns.
One of the first big events to happen in One Dark Throne is Joseph stepping up and telling Mirabella the truth. I cringed when he decided to escort Billy to do his father’s bidding as taster (because you know, Katharine is sending poison all over the kingdom for funsies).
However, not only did he graciously tell Mirabella it was all a mistake and he loved Jules, but she also handled it with dignity and grace. She let him go to Jules. Blake wrote the scene beautifully. She allowed both characters to demonstrate growth that would serve them in the long run.
Nicolas was not in the first book so I can’t really talk all that much about him except to say he is Queen Katharine’s main suitor and well good luck to them because…
Oh! Wait. Petyr. Right at the start of the book. Katharine writes a loving note begging Petyr to come home and to not be afraid of coming home. And he does?
Well. Whatever you think or however you think this plays out. Scratch it.
You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead
That is a band, right? The title of this section is a play on SO MANY THINGS. If you have already read and remember things, hopefully you get some of the play on words.
If you haven’t, I hope you remember this and laugh. All I know is that my prediction is that the next book will be woefully mistitled. It should be One Dark Reign or A Gaggle of Dark Reigns. I can’t say why. That is just my prediction.
What this section is actually about – death. There is lots of death. Minor death and major death. I can’t say any more than that, sorry. Just letting you know.
As always, Blake’s strength throughout all the death, Gore and nightmarish brutality is her writing. It is sharp as a blade and piercing. Throughout each character ARC and change over time (so far) they stay true to their core while growing up and learning from their mistakes.
Simultaneously, the story does the same. While staying true to the core story, it grows in depth, richness and dove deeper into the depths of darkness. I may not have known what I was getting into with this series, but I have no regrets about any of it, at all.
On to Two Dark Reigns! And the buddy read questions Allisa and I developed, below!
Buddy Read Questions
- When you have PMS are you an elemental, poisoner, or naturalist where your familiar is the beast inside of you?
- I am definitely an elementalist but not in an anger way. Like I’m pretty pathetic around that time. I have insomnia issues except those blissful few days where I could sleep 15 hours a day like a cat. It is beautiful. I also can eat the entire refrigerator and will start sobbing just because I dropped the keys. Literally. So, I could see myself as a sobbing elementalist if that makes any sense.
- Every series—tv, books, whatever—there is a character that at the end of the day the story is theirs. Halfway through the novel, whose story do you think this is?
- If you had asked me in Three Dark Crowns, I would have said Arsinoe. In my mind I would have had an asterisk telling me to watch out for Jules. Now, I’m 95% sure this is Jules’ story.
- Which of the queens would be your best friend and which would be your enemy?
- I would have to say Arsinoe just because she is so damn snarky that it matches with my snark. I would get upset that she is willing to accept dying so easily. I’d want to kick her ass for that. Queen Katharine, as I’ve stated, scares the fuck out of me. So, I’m going to go with her being my enemy. If she threatens me the way Hella did Scourge in Thor: Ragnarok? I would say yes because the idea of saying no scares me.
- If you liked this book, then I’d recommend…
I wracked my brain over this, and I can’t think of anything I’ve read that is comparable.
The only thing that is coming close in my mind is a book I just finished, House of Salt and Sorrows. Allisa has a recommendation that might be much better than mine, but I haven’t read it (although I might now that I saw her recommend it. Go, make sure you check out her answers.
Allisa and I are on to TWO DARK REIGNS!!!!!!