Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

“And no matter which queen they wanted to see on the throne, eventually, the island comes to love the one they have.”

Five Dark Fates Cover.jpg

Goodreads || B&N || Kendare’s Twitter

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.

3.5 STARS

CW: loss of a loved one, graphic injury, self-harm, gore, animal death, violence

We are finally at the end of the Fennbirn journey, and it’s been a bloody ride to get here. When we left off, the fate of the island seemed to be hanging in the balance with Jules caught up in her curse and the triplet queens choosing how to make their stands, not to mention Pietyr in a coma thanks to the fearsome power of the dead queens piloting Katharine’s body.

Now, though, we’re at the end, and everyone’s fates are very, very clear.

While I’m unsurprised at the triplets’ fates, I have to admit that I’m mostly satisfied with their arcs. Mirabella finds herself in the role of oldest triplet so completely, and has dedicated herself to seeing her sisters safely through it all, something that hits me on a bit of a personal level as the oldest sibling in my family. Meanwhile, Katharine and the dead queens find themselves more at odds than ever, and I finally found myself warming up to her, understanding the forces behind her choices throughout the series. She’s still my least favorite of the triplets, but I think Five Dark Fates finally cracked open her character in a way I could appreciate and understand.

And Arsinoe, my personal favorite. I love how insistent she’s been on not harming her sisters, on not being the one to bring bloodshed even when the chips are down, and watching her work to save them and Fennbirn as a whole was a treat. She may be impulsive and a little coarse sometimes, but she cares deeply, and I really enjoyed her POV most. Plus, I think her relationship with Billy Chatworth is sweet, and also one of the least superficial relationships in the series.

It was good to see Jules claim her role in Fennbirn’s fate, too. She and Camden are my favorite characters overall, and I appreciated that some of the biggest choices came down to her approach and her abilities. Not only that, but on a conceptual level, her legion curse is fascinating to me.

It also comes up that Jules is bi, and on the one hand, I do love more bi rep! On the other, I have to say it felt like a late, underdeveloped addition that was just tossed in for brownie points or something.

And I think that’s the series’ biggest problem: underdevelopment. For a finale with major character deaths and the fate of an entire island resting on it, I didn’t really find myself terribly invested in it all. The pace felt too slow to be a climax of all the danger the queens have faced so far, and when it was all said and done, I found myself wondering where the rest was. What happens to Fennbirn next? What about the surviving characters? What about magic and curses and curse breaking and familiars and relationships? So very much of Five Dark Fates feels truly amazing in concept, and underwhelming or even lackluster in execution.

If this were the second book in the series, maybe I would be a little less disappointed, since second book syndrome happens, and I’ve read great follow-ups after mediocre second books. But this is the end of the road for the Fennbirn series, and I can’t help but feel like I missed something important somewhere along the way. Where’s all the emotion I’m supposed to be feeling? Where are these plot points that could have held much more bearing on the resolution?

As far as series finales go, this is not one of the more impressive ones I’ve encountered, and in some ways, I feel cheated. I came all this way, read all those pages, just for this?

And at the same time, there was enough about the series that I enjoyed, enough that brought me back for each installment. It’s not going to find itself on my favorites shelf any time soon, but I can’t deny that I enjoyed it enough, if only in concept and in certain characters, to keep coming back for more.

Not every book is going to be a masterpiece, I suppose, and that’s okay. And as far as books go, Five Dark Fates isn’t horrible. It just isn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever read, and held up against some of my other reads this year, it just isn’t strong enough to merit a standing ovation or anything of the sort.

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