The opener to a pitch-black epic fantasy series horrifically upends the bonds of sisterhood.
Every generation, magically gifted triplet girls are born to rule Fennbirn, and it is the duty of each young queen to try to murder the others once they come of age. But this time only the elemental Mirabella has yet displayed any power, as the naturalist Arsinoe and poisoner Katherine are deemed weak and giftless. Although kindhearted Mirabella shows some reluctance to kill, both headstrong Arsinoe and abused Katherine are more than ready to employ any tactic to live...and win. Blake has constructed an insular, all-white, matriarchal society from convincing intimate details. As the personal lives, loves, and betrayals of the three queens are manipulated by their supporting factions, the intricate machinations of the plot never overwhelm the vivid, complicated characters of the queens and those closest to them; while it’s impossible not to sympathize with each, it is equally difficult to root for any of them. The omniscient third-person present-tense narration, switching every chapter among various players preparing for, scheming about, and even fleeing the upcoming ritual competition, employs sumptuous, poetic prose (if little of Blake’s trademark wit) with an odd detachment, creating a fablelike distance from even the grisly, shocking climax.
Gorgeous and bloody, tender and violent, elegant, precise, and passionate; above all, completely addicting. (Fantasy. 14 & up)