A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that One Dark Throne is the second book in the Three Dark Crowns series by the author of the acclaimed horror novel Anna Dressed in Blood. With the plot centering on 16-year-old triplet queens traditionally destined to murder one another in an attempt to rule, this dark gem is best for high school readers and up. Both the violence and the sex are ratcheted up in this sequel. There are poisonings and skirmishes with arrows, thrown knives, and swords, leading to a high body count. Some bloody and gory moments include a woman saved from a poisoned glove by getting her arm chopped off; a man knifed ("carved ... up from lungs to heart"); and a woman choked, beaten, then strangled ("eyes red with burst blood vessels" and neck crushed). An animal is tortured. Two teen couples have sex. Scenes cut out at the kissing, light undressing, and falling to the bed. There's also a fair amount of drinking, and the queens drink at gatherings. Though this story remains very dark, there's some hope for the characters who seek to break with these murderous traditions. Mercy and love begin to win out.
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What's the story?
In ONE DARK THRONE, it's turning into one unpredictable Ascension Year. Queen Katharine miraculously, mysteriously returns after being cast into a pit and left for dead. As she's welcomed back to the Poisoner clan, it's clear she's changed. She's more bloodthirsty, more willing to risk her own life ingesting poisons to prove herself, and more determined to be considered the strongest queen and the last one standing. Meanwhile her sister-queens, Arsinoe and Mirabella, prepare to face off. Spies tell Arsinoe that Mirabella is stalking her in the woods nearby. Instead of hiding from Mirabella and her ability to strike her down with a bolt of lightning, Arsinoe goes out to meet her. When Mirabella sees that Arsinoe doesn't have her bear to protect her, she hesitates, and it's enough for Arsinoe to escape. But Arsinoe won't be able to escape her sisters at the Midwinter Festival. All the queens are invited to Arsinoe's Naturalist village to celebrate -- and try to kill each other.
Is it any good?
This sequel meanders at the start but then builds to so many unexpected twists and turns that readers who delight in dark tales will be so glad they went on the journey. One Dark Throne is tough to talk about without revealing spoilers: How many queens made it so far? Who killed whom? Did Mirabella finally get angry enough? Or did Katharine go crazy enough? Or did Arsinoe develop her newfound Poisoners gift in time to use it? All good questions, and no, none of it goes the way readers think it will.
It's not just about the queens here, either. Arsinoe's friend Jules has an intriguing role to play while adding some more mysteries to workings of this curious world of macabre traditions and power-playing families and devoted priestesses. It's why the beginning seems to meander -- it's a lot of secondary characters and dirty-dealing politics to keep straight. But it's also why the last third is so twisty and exciting. There: nothing given away here except to expect the unexpected and, no doubt, be ready for more shocking surprises in the next installment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in One Dark Throne. Did you feel prepared for some of the gore in this story, considering what you know is supposed to happen? Is it easier to read about violence when it's expected as part of the story?
What do you think of the power struggle that unfolds? Who's destined to hold the power on this island? The winning queen? The families they were raised by? The families of the mainland king-consorts? Is this island really a matriarchal society?
What do you think will happen next? Which characters do you think will stand out in the third book?
- Author: Kendare Blake
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies, Brothers and sisters, Horses and farm animals, Misfits and underdogs, Wild animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Publication date: September 19, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 464
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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