Title: Five Dark Fates
Author: Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns #4
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: September 3rd, 2019 (HarperTeen)
Synopsis: After the battle with Katharine, the rebellion lies in tatters. Jules’s legion curse has been unbound, leaving her out of her mind and unfit to rule. Arsinoe must find a cure, even as the responsibility of stopping the ravaging mist rests heavy on her shoulders, and her shoulders alone. Mirabella has disappeared.
Queen Katharine’s rule over Fennbirn remains intact—for now. But her attack on the rebellion exacted a high price: her beloved Pietyr. Without him, who can she rely upon when Mirabella arrives, seemingly under a banner of truce? As oldest and youngest circle each other, and Katharine begins to yearn for the closeness that Mirabella and Arsinoe share, the dead queens hiss caution—Mirabella is not to be trusted.
In this conclusion to the Three Dark Crowns series, three dark sisters will rise to fight as the secrets of Fennbirn’s history are laid bare. Allegiances will shift. Bonds will be tested, and some broken forever.
The fate of the island lies in the hands of its queens.
In the aftermath of the battle, Katharine still holds the throne and the rebellion has retreated to Sunpool to figure out how to handle Jules’ unleashed legion curse. Fennbirn is gearing up for war, and with the rebellion to deal with on one front, the dead queens on another and the murderous mist on a third, Katharine already has her plate full even before Mirabella shows up.
The first three quarters of this book was excellent, building up the political intrigue and beautifully depicting the perspectives of each character as they fought to overcome the various obstacles in their paths. While the rebellion was dealing with Jules’ legion curse, Katharine and Mirabella investigated the Mist further. I particularly enjoyed Mirabella’s time at court and the way the author depicted her relationship with Katharine – a very different one from her dynamic with Arsinoe. Despite everything though, they do eventually come to trust each other, as above all else, the queens are still sisters first.
Just a warning, serious spoilers ahead.
I maintain my opinion from the previous book that this rebellion plotline is ridiculous, and Jules has no business being any kind of queen. This story started out as a face off between three sisters and it should have stayed that way. For an island who demands that the queens of each generation to fight to the death as a matter of tradition, the people of Fennbirn seem awfully receptive to such drastic change, and the lay of the land in this final book is very different from the original premise.
Unfortunately, while I was really enjoying this book for the first part, from there on it was an infuriating series of conveniences along with the pacing being very rushed. So many plot lines, just wasted. The ending just ruined all the amazing build up, and that’s not even mentioning the many plot holes that are never addressed. For starters, how did Emilia manage to kidnap Pietyr single handedly from within a Poisoner stronghold? Pietyr waking up and suddenly being on their side is very out of character too, considering how loyal he has been to Katharine all this time – he who travelled to the Breccia domain just to find out what happened to her, and went as far as low magic to save her. He gave up on Katharine far too easily to be believable, and honestly, it might have been better if he just stayed unconscious.
And my biggest pet peeve about this series, the nature of low magic. In Five Dark Fates, it just seems awfully convenient that Arsinoe, who is hardly a skilled practitioner, is able to not only figure out how to bind Jules’ Legion curse, but also wake up Pietyr and use it to fight the dead queens. We’re told many times through the series that low magic has a cost – in Madrigal’s case, her life – it seems that Arsinoe, for some reason is the exception. I suppose Mirabella’s death could be considered the cost, but it’s hardly a parallel compared to the other examples throughout the story. It really irked me that Arsinoe was the last one left standing as I find her character irritating more than anything.
Then there is the Mist, which is never really resolved. The whole story of Daphne and Illiann seems kind of redundant now, especially since it is never clearly explained why, if the Mist came for the dead queens, it was harming the civilians? And that line about how the Mist was made by the death of an elemental, and can only be unmade by another – is that even true, since Mirabella’s death seemed to have had no effect on it? In fact, it was used more as a plot device to give the rebellion even more of a reason to portray Katharine as a monster. Mirabella is not a character I particularly like, but for such a beloved and powerfully gifted queen, she deserved better than such an anticlimactic end. This was really the point where the book started going downhill, in my opinion.
At the end of all this, what really upset me about this book was that Katharine was left looking the villain, when she is one of the best morally complex characters I’ve ever read. She knew what was coming all along, what price she would have to pay to rid herself of the dead queens, and her composure throughout was remarkable. She really did try to be a good queen despite the nature of her upbringing, and the manner of her end did not do her justice at all. Katharine deserved so much better.
Overall, I’m going to be leaving my rating at 3.5 stars for this one, if only because I so enjoyed the initial parts of the book, no matter how disappointing the ending turned out to be. I was in no way, expecting a happily ever after out of this series, but I did expect better than this ending from one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I know I’ve complained far more than praised in this review, but Five Dark Fates was as riveting a read as the previous books. It was great to return to the world of Fennbirn one last time and I would still recommend this series as a whole.
What did you think of Five Dark Fates? Let me know in the comments below!