Three sisters intensify their deadly struggle for the crown in the second of a horror-tinged fantasy series.
After the spectacular catastrophe of the Quickening (Three Dark Crowns, 2016), the balance of power among the queens has shifted. With the rampage by Arsinoe’s bear, the naturalist candidate has demonstrated unexpected strength, and now elemental Mirabella is no longer treated as the foreordained victor. Meanwhile, poisoner Katharine has returned from her rumored death with a vengeance…and a mission. Alliances shift as the various factions play Temple against Council, and potential suitors become both rivals and pawns—but not even the Goddess can prevent the queens from deciding to take their fates into their own hands. Blake’s already pitch-black tale shades even darker, as the queens’ cruel contest piles up an escalating (and grisly) body count. Yet more excruciating is the curse upon their experience of love, whether with siblings, parents, or friends; in romance, passion, even religious devotion—all relationships are twisted, broken, abandoned, and betrayed. With numerous alternating viewpoints, the exquisitely restrained prose limns a nuanced, subtly realized matriarchal society: all-white, normatively heterosexual (but with exceptions), in which even the most complex male characters function only in relationship to women. The deliberate pacing at the outset serves to re-establish the labyrinthine web of characterization and plot, paying off in a tumultuous climax that piles one shocking twist upon another.
Achingly gorgeous and gruesomely fascinating. (Fantasy. 14-adult)