Three sisters are divided by one crown, but take one (or two) out of the equation and you’re left with two dark somethings? Or half a kingdom? Or a really challenging title for the next book? Moving past these oh-so-thrilling math problems, I can’t review this book without touching on Three Dark Crowns, which I found to be an exciting launch for a unique new series. There’s plenty of books about siblings fighting for a throne, but Blake built a world that was interesting because of the three distinct, but well-developed kingdoms of the siblings: the poisoners, naturalists and elementals.
The first book was really about the differences in the three sisters and the unique struggles and goals each took with them into the Ascension. The second book, One Dark Throne, is both more and less one story. It is more one story because you see the sisters come together, it is less a story of three sisters in three kingdoms and more a story of one battle for one throne. Without giving too much away, you see each sister dealing with revelations. Arsinoe must deal with the revelations around her power, Katharine must deal with what was revealed in the abyss and Mirabella must deal with learning hard truths about those she loves. I really enjoyed seeing the parallels in each sister’s fight and seeing their disparate stories become one.
While the goal is the throne, I think what really won me was that this book was also less a story about one fight for a throne. Blake does an excellent job developing the secondary characters. Katherine’s suitor is a mysterious, ominous presence. Joseph and Jules break my heart and thrill me from one scene to another. And the new, older (by older, I mean more senior) characters add personal touches, heartbreaks and challenges of their own. Perhaps one of the most compelling points of the book is that while the presence of Suitors is a key part of the storyline, there’s no insta-love or forced love triangles. All of the romances are challenging and real and often heartbreaking.
Side note: You know the character development is amazing when you’d take a novella or spin-off about pretty much any of the characters you’ve seen.
So, overall, I think this is one of the rare great second books in a series (maybe it helps that Goodreads says there will be 4 books in the series). I can’t wait to see what equation will create a true Crowned Queen.