One Dark Throne is the sequel to the 2016 YA fantasy Three Dark Crowns. Since this review is of a sequel, it
may will contain spoilers for any previous books in the series.
“’Once, I was a mouse,’ she says and strips off her glove. She reaches into the cage to stroke the rodent’s tiny bald haunches.
‘But I am not anymore.’”
There was a time in my life where I was only reading series, finishing one book and opening the next as though there was a chapter break instead of an ending and a beginning. I don’t do it often anymore, but Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series offered the perfect opportunity for a return to that extra level of indulgent immersion.
I was pretty open about my concerns with Three Dark Crowns in my review, and went into its sequel with mixed expectations. Right away, my primary frustration focused on how little the characters question the things, people, and events around them. This continues throughout the book, as do many of my concerns regarding Blake’s worldbuilding and the general “unreliable narrator” issue Blake’s shaky presentation of the rules creates. (Read more about that in my previous review.)
However, in many ways I think One Dark Throne certainly surpassed its predecessor.
While I think it’s entirely unsupportable that these characters would let go, unremembered and unremarked-upon, crazy event after crazy event, the main characters all start to feel more well-rounded as the pages fly by. Eventually, Blake folds in loose ends she’d left flapping in book one, and with that she buys back much of my willing suspension of disbelief. By the end I finally believed that Blake had a plan for us readers, and I was finally able to let go and enjoy the journey.
This book is by no means more than another 3-star fantasy, and it’s still full to the brim with narrative issues (which either will or won’t bother you, depending on the type of reader you are). For instance, if you still can’t let it to that Madrigal apparently drew an ailing bear to savage Arsinoe and NOBODY is asking her what was supposed to happen, you’re going to be frustrated through and through. Same, if you’re finding it difficult to be the only one mad that Rho cut off Elizabeth’s arm (which I will never forgive).
However, while the reveals in the first book were on the whole uninspiring, the reveals in this book are W-I-L-D, wild. If Three Dark Crowns was the calm before the storm, then One Dark Throne is that storm. The hits just won’t stop coming, and each one brings with it two revelations and a million questions. All of this kept me turning pages to the end, and had me pre-ordering book three before I’d passed this book’s half-way point.
I also have to mention Blake’s character development, which finally lends depth of character to each of the sisters – even as they delve deeper down their individual dark paths. The characters continue to be bolstered (or abused) by a slew of secondary characters, whose appearance in and departure from one sister’s life or another feels like the only thing Blake really gets 100% right. Blake, notorious for her use of “mystery for the sake of mystery” in keeping secrets from the reader which we really should have discovered due to POV exposure, provides our sisters with natural allies as a way to further development and exposition, and withholds them just as easily to enhance mystery where it is warranted. This is where Blake gets at least an A- from me.
Overall this is still just a 3-star story, but I think it’s a much better written, and thus much more enjoyable, installment of the Three Dark Crowns series.