Queens of Fennbirn: Three Dark Crowns Series

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Queens of Fennbirn: Three Dark Crowns Series Book Poster Image
Two prequel stories deftly explore betrayal and power.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Poisoners ingest some real poisons. A few different magical traditions represented here -- prophesy, the manipulation of the natural world, and the manipulation of the elements (earth, air, fire, water). Readers can think of other fantasy stories with similar brands of magic. The nature vs. nurture debate resonates in the stories of Queen Katherine and Queen Arsinoe, who are switched at birth and changed but not wholly changed by their guardians.

Positive Messages

Traditions that are wrong should be questioned. What does it mean to rule? Loyalty and compassion are punished. The history we know and what's really true may not be the same thing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The young queens show compassion for each other and loyalty. Queen Mirabella is called stubborn and dangerous, but she uses the tools she has to fight against a tradition she doesn't believe in. Many of Queen Elsabet's good traits incite her enemies. She refuses to be a puppet, desires love and to be close to her people and wants to use her gift of Sight for good.  

Violence

A woman with a warrior gift fights to the death against many in a scene with much blood. Many innocents killed by fire and stabbing, one with an arrow in her head -- the action described after with bodies found. The body of a boy killed with poison is shown to a child and described as being covered with blisters and scratches. A mother dies from excessive bleeding after childbirth. A child knocked out by a lamp. Stories of queens drowned as babies and killed by other queens. The story of a girl beheaded and buried holding her head.

Sex

People have affairs and women take lovers. A boy of 17 has sex with a 22-year-old woman. Little described overall -- some kissing and groping and a mention of a gown around a waist before moving to the bed.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine, ale, and whiskey drinking in bars, in private meetings, and at events for adults.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Queens of Fennbirn is a collection of two novellas -- The Young Queens and The Oracle Queen -- previously released separately online. These novellas are best read after the first or second book in Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns series. That way readers will already be steeped in this dark world of triplet queens vying for the crown by killing each other when they're 16 years old. The first novella isn't as dark as all that. It depicts the early years of the queens we know from the series. The second novella ends with a lot of blood. A woman with a warrior gift fights to the death against a small army. Many innocents are killed by fire and stabbing, one with an arrow in her head -- the action described after with bodies found. There are sexual encounters including affairs and teen sex, but with little described. Wine, ale, and whiskey are passed around to adults in bars, private meetings, and events. With a tragic bent to the tales, expect to see the power-hungry rewarded with more power and the loyal and compassionate to be punished.

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What's the story?

In QUEENS OF FENNBIRN, we meet The Young Queens in the first novella, when they are born, as they grow up together, and when they are separated at age 6 to live with the houses that will nurture their respective powers. Queen Mirabella grows to be not only the most powerful, but also the most stubborn. In The Oracle Queen, we get the real story of Queen Elsabet, who reigned 500 years before. Elsabet is supposed to be the reason that all queens with the Sight as a power are drowned young. But was it madness that turned her into an outcast or other power-hungry forces at work?

Is it any good?

Fans of this deliciously dark series about murderous triplet queens will fawn over these novellas that explore the power struggles on the magical island of Fennbirn. Previously released separately online, the novellas seem quite different at first. The Young Queens shows the queens from the Three Dark Crowns trilogy growing up, separating, and moving in with their guardians to grow their magical gifts. The Oracle Queen steps back 500 years to when a queen was betrayed by the power-hungry. Both together are clever cautionary tales for the queens as they come of age. They ignite a foreboding for the outcome of the rest of the trilogy. Questions arise: Will the poisoners ever relinquish control? How much power are the queens really given after all they go through? Is there any way to abolish tradition?

There are places these novellas could have dug deeper and been much more than the novella format allows -- it's especially disappointing when Mirabella's fascinating story is cut short. But overall, Queens of Fennbirn serves the Three Dark Crowns trilogy well. It adds another delicious layer to author Kendare Blake's dark fantasy confection.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about power plays in The Queens of Fennbirn. How do the Arrons wield their power in both novellas? What is so dangerous about Queen Mirabella in the eyes of her guardians? Is it her power or knowing her own mind?

  • What do Queen Mirabella and Queen Elsabet have in common?

  • How do these novellas add to the Three Crowns trilogy? Do they change how you view the queens?

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