Queens of Fennbirn by Kendare Blake

Queens of Fennbirn Cover.jpg

Goodreads || B&N || Kendare’s Twitter

Uncover the sisters’ origins, dive deep into the catastrophic reign of the Oracle Queen, and reveal layers of Fennbirn’s past, hidden until now.

The Young Queens

Get a glimpse of triplet queens Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katharine during a short period of time when they protected and loved one another. From birth until their claiming ceremonies, this is the story of the three sisters’ lives…before they were at stake.

The Oracle Queen

Everyone knows the legend of Elsabet, the Oracle Queen. The one who went mad. The one who orchestrated a senseless, horrific slaying of three entire houses. But what really happened? Discover the true story behind the queen who could foresee the future…just not her own downfall.

4 STARS

CW: violence, suicide, child abuse, loss of a loved one

After reading the first two books in this series, I was worried Queens of Fennbirn was going to be another three star read, but somehow, the novellas actually upped the ante! Both The Young Queens and The Oracle Queen delivered some fantastic insights into the world of Fennbirn and the three queens the series centers its focus on.

Of the two, I’ll admit to liking The Oracle Queen more. It has a structure with much tighter plot than the core series, and it’s a great case of writing a story where you know the outcome but don’t know how the story will get there. Not only that, but I actually felt for Queen Elsabet quickly. A relatively new queen with few true allies in her court, though those few allies are clearly devoted to her unquestionably, she’s faced with infidelity from her king-consort, and scheming behind her back. Her gift of sight is failing too, and she no longer receives visions like she used to, introducing an air of doubt.

It’s not an especially happy story, not that Fennbirn seems like a particularly happy place, but the plot spooled out steadily, and it added a proper layer of history to the island. I’m truly a sucker for lore and legends, especially in fantasy novels where kingdoms have been long established, and The Oracle Queen scratched that itch in just the right way, even if it was short and there was no hope of triumph for our protagonist.

Meanwhile, The Young Queens is not nearly so tight in the pacing, but it does give a glimpse into the lives of Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katharine before the competition for the crown became the focus of their lives. I really loved seeing all of them so young, especially in the moments before they were split up at the Black Cottage. They used to really care about one another, and this novella shows the reasons that they drifted away from the positive memories they’d shared with one another. Mirabella, though, who never forgot, has the most interesting segments purely because we see the way that High Priestess Luca managed to manipulate her into taking a stand against her sisters all the same.

Second to Mirabella’s segments, I liked Jules’ moments. She actually starred in the novella a little more so than Arsinoe did, and I adore tiny, feisty Jules so much. She’s not perfect, and she and Arsinoe don’t click immediately, but we do learn more about the complicated relationships in the Milone family, and we get to see Jules and Camden’s very first meeting, which actually made me go AWWWW out loud. Bonus points just for that, actually.

Even Katharine, my least favorite, still had her moments, partly because we see her through Natalia’s eyes, when Natalia treated her softly still. We see shades of the merciful, emotional Katharine that could have been were she not abused day in and day out in poisoner training. We see fragments of what she would have been if Queen Camille and Willa had not made their choices the day the triplets were born. And from that, we get sympathy. I still don’t like her, since I weigh characters on current actions over backstory, but it was fantastic to get a deeper background for her, and to feel something other than boredom or disgust for her character.

All together, Queens of Fennbirn makes a solid addition to the Three Dark Crowns world, and it satisfied my constant desire for more worldbuilding and history, even if it wasn’t so outstanding so as to warrant anything higher than 4 stars. 👑

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