Two Dark Reigns
By Kendare Blake
Published by Macmillan
ISBN 978 1 5098 7649 5
In the first few pages of Kendare Blake’s Two Dark Reigns, before the story begins, you’ll find a complex map with strange-sounding place names. It’s a clear sign that we are about to enter a new fantasy world – one that needs a bit of explaining.
In addition to this handy tourist guide, the novel also features a list of characters at the front of the book. Readers can refer back to both of these aids when the threads of the, no doubt, complicated plot start to become too tangled.
Two Dark Reigns is the third book in Blake’s bestselling Three Dark Crowns fantasy series, but new readers should be able to catch up on the drama so far simply by reading the blurb on the back cover. They can then dive straight into the action.
At the book’s opening, Queen Katharine sits on the throne of Fennbirn, and the island is finally at peace – but we can safely assume that something is going to happen to disrupt that.
Queen Katharine has waited her entire life to become the ruler of Fennbirn Island, and now all she wants is to be a fair and just leader to her people. But where would be the fun in that for the reader? Katharine’s two sisters, Mirabella and Arsinoe, are waiting in the wings to steal the throne. Believed by some to be dead, they are in fact in hiding on the mainland, just waiting for the right moment to attack.
These two would-be queens are not the only enemies Queen Katharine has to worry about. The ghostly Blue Queen – also thought to be long dead – is gathering together a rebel army to invade Fennbirn. Queen Katharine is going to have a lot to contend with as revolt, revolution, and evil forces all come together to end her already unsteady reign.
Meanwhile, the magically gifted Jules is trying to keep a low profile. Her friends, Emilia and Mathilde, want her to take on the dreaded Blue Queen, but Jules isn’t sure she has what it takes. However, she may be Fennbirn’s only hope.
When it comes to high fantasy novels, there’s a lot to be said for keeping things clear and not confusing readers with too many settings, subplots, or secondary characters.
It’s true that Two Dark Reigns throws a lot into the mix, but the novel doesn’t solely depend on its fantasy tropes to carry it. It’s held up by its strong central storyline that explores the nature of sibling relationships. The plot is also pushed along by a cast of strong, vibrant mothers, daughters, goddesses, queens, and sisters.
Three Dark Crowns is a series with a clear genre and target readership. Blake knows exactly who she is writing for and what their expectations are, and she doesn’t disappoint.
John Millen can be contacted at email@example.com