NOTE: In case you missed the title of this post, BE WARNED NOW THAT IT WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS! If you want my non-spoilery thoughts on the books in this series, check out my reviews instead! Or, if you’ve only read the first two books, then feel free to check out my Spoiler-Filled Discussions of Three Dark Crowns and One Dark Throne! (And then immediately read the novellas and come back here!)
So, my review of Two Dark Reigns is coming TOMORROW (I’m excited, okay?), and I thought I should do a little talking about the two novellas in Queens of Fennbirn before I jump into book three.
I’ll talk about what we learned in “The Young Queens” and “The Oracle Queen” and my predictions about what these revelations might mean for the overarching story of the series.
The Young Queens by Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns #0.2
Also in this series: Three Dark Crowns
Published by HarperTeen on December 26th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
Three black witches, born to a descending queen. One would rise to become queen in her place. Perhaps the strongest of the three. Perhaps the cleverest. Or perhaps it would be the girl born under the best shield of luck.
Katharine, Arsinoe and Mirabella - three young queens born to fulfil their destiny - to fight to the death to win the crown. But before they were poisoner, elemental and naturalist, they were children, sisters and friends . . .
In this novella, we get to see details of the queens’ (and Jules’s) lives when they were younger. We see:
- The queens’ birth and their separation.
- What the queens’ lives were like when they first went to live with their foster families.
- Why High Priestess Luca went to live with Mirabella (she sees her incredible power when Mirabella basically tries to kill her and realizes a subtle hand is needed for her).
- How Caragh felt when Madrigal returned (miserable).
- The results of Arsinoe’s attempt to escape the island.
- Jules’s bonding with Camden.
So, here’s what we learned:
- The triplets are just that: triplets. An elemental, a poisoner, and a naturalist.
- We got to see the actual birth of the queens, so the theory that many of us had that perhaps Jules was a Blue Queen who was somehow hidden away was blown. Queen Camille definitely only had three babies.
- Also, Queen Camille declares the girls’ gifts: Mirabella is an elemental, Arsinoe a poisoner, and Kat a naturalist.
- Queen Camille says that Mirabella’s gift is by far the strongest and she does not want another poisoner to be queen, so she has the midwife switch Arsinoe and Kat. Willa grooms Mirabella for the crown (teaches her a lot more), even though she’s not supposed to.
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: Obviously, Jules isn’t an actual queen (born of Queen Camille) who was hidden away, but she is still in some way related to the queens. Several people suggested that maybe she is the king-consort’s daughter?
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: So, Kat is a naturalist, at least according to Camille. But she showed very little gift at her birth. And she’s shown almost no naturalist gift throughout the book (for instance, not noticing that Sweetheart was switched). Could Camille have been wrong? Or is her gift so small that it’s basically non-existent?
- Powers on the island are waning.
- Each successive poisoner queen has been weaker and weaker.
- All of the other gifts have weakened because of the lack of queens, especially the war gift and the oracle gift (though it’s also mentioned that the naturalists’ familiars have gotten smaller and smaller).
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: BUT both of Jules’ gifts are the strongest anyone’s seen in generations, so that means that she still has to be special, right?
- Queens are supposed to forget. There is lots of talk about queens forgetting.
- Once the queen has her baby and goes to the mainland, she supposedly forgets the island. Willa says it starts happening with every step away from the Black Cottage. (Queens often don’t even survive the birth of the triplets—it’s implied that Queen Camille is quite sick after the birth. Does she live?)
- Queens also lose their gifts once they get to the mainland (they fade to basically nothing).
- The triplet queens are supposed to forget each other after they’re separated at age six. It’s implied that this is more than just regular childhood forgetting.
- Arsinoe and Kat eventually forget, but Mirabella hangs onto the memory of her sisters with all her might. Though her memories fade, she doesn’t forget.
- Also, people on the mainland barely remember that Fennbirn exists. And supposedly the island’s true name has already mostly been forgotten, even by those on the island (we aren’t actually told the true name—Fennbirn is what outsiders call it; people on the island just call it the island).
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: Will Arsinoe and Mirabella forget the island now that they’ve gone to the mainland? Will they lose their gifts? Will they be able to ever get them back?
- Details about Jules & the queens: (Some of these we already knew, but the fact that they keep getting repeated has to be important.)
- Jules was conceived during the Beltane (at the same time the triplets were). People hope that babies born during the Beltane will be almost as strong as the queens (in Jules’ case, she’s stronger—with the possible exception of Mirabella).
- Jules looks nothing like her mother.
- Jules has one blue eye and one green (not black, like the queens). She has tan skin and thick, dark curls (again, not black though). She is short.
- The queens all have black hair and eyes but look nothing like each other otherwise. (All different heights, no similar features.)
- The queens do not ever look like their mothers.
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: The fact that the queens look nothing alike and that queens don’t look like their mothers makes me even more sure that Jules is somehow a queen. It’s emphasized several times in the book that she looks nothing like Madrigal. I just haven’t quite figured out how she can be a queen yet …
- The Blue Queen. We get more details about the Blue Queen (the fourth queen, who is considered so special that all three of her siblings are immediately killed and she is declared the true queen immediately).
- There was a lack of omens the year she was born (just like there was the year of the current queens’ birth), which people said in and of itself was an omen.
- Queen Illiann was the last Blue Queen. She was born ten generations of queens ago.
- She reigned for 46 years (very long for a queen!!) before her triplets were born.
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: Okay, the Blue Queen keeps getting mentioned, so it’s obviously important. But Jules isn’t an actual Blue Queen since she wasn’t born to Queen Camille. Is she somehow a Blue Queen in another way? It’s driving me crazy!!!
- The Milone sisters’ curse:
- The Milone women always have two daughters.
- One daughter is always barren. (Caragh knows she is barren because Madrigal already had Jules).
- Cait makes an off-handed comment in this section that everyone on the island has a bit of the sight, but most people just ignore it.
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: We’ve definitely seen instances of several of the characters having possible hints of the sight. I think Cait’s onto something!
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: Will Jules or her little sister be barren? (I assume that if this comes into play, it will be Jules, since the sister isn’t even born yet.)
- The Oracle Queen: We hear again about the Oracle Queen, but I’m not going to go into any detail here because she has her own novella!
The Oracle Queen by Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns #0.1
Also in this series: Three Dark Crowns
Published by HarperTeen on April 3 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, but it's not shown; Some violence)
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Three Dark Crowns series introduces readers to the Oracle Queen in this riveting prequel e-novella.
Triplet queens born on the island of Fennbirn can be many things: Elementals. Poisoners. Naturalists. If an oracle queen is born, however, one with the gift of sight, she’s immediately drowned, extinguishing her chance at ever taking the throne.
But that’s not how it always was. This cautionary practice started long ago, with Queen Elsabet—the legendary, and last, oracle queen—whose reign was tinged with blood and horror.
Paranoid, ruthless, and utterly mad, Elsabet’s mistrust led to the senseless slaying of three entire houses of innocent people. At least, that’s the unchallenged tale carried down from generation to generation. But what really happened? Discover the true story behind the queen who, though born with the gift of sight, could not foresee her swift and sudden fall from power . . . until it was too late.
Fans of the Three Dark Crowns series will be enthralled with Queen Elsabet’s genesis, riveted by her madness, and compelled by her tragic—and bloody—reign.
In this novella, we see the actual events that led to Queen Elsabet’s downfall and to the fact that every queen born with the oracle gift after her was drowned. We learn:
- It was all a lie!!!
- Queen Elsabet never went mad at all!
- She never murdered anyone! (Francesca Arron did all the murdering. This totally threw me. I thought we were going to find out Elsabet’s murders were justified, not that she didn’t kill anyone at all.)
- She was framed!
- So they’ve basically been drowning oracle queens for no reason.
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: This was the first time that I completely wondered how much the Goddess had to do with anything at all when it came to the queen’s ascension. I mean, obviously, it isn’t the Goddess who decided that oracle babies should be drowned—that was The Black Council. So, who’s really in charge, the Council or the Goddess?
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: What about in the case of the Blue Queen? Is there any reason to believe that the Goddess actually wants the other babies killed if a Blue Queen is born, or is this just something the Council decided?
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: Maybe it’s never been the Goddess who had the queens kill each other after all!
- The Arrons were behind it all. Are we surprised? Those Arrons are no good! (Even if Natalia did actually love Kat—I’ll never trust Genevieve).
- Francesca Arron just didn’t like the fact that Queen Illiana wouldn’t listen to her (or the rest of the Council, but mostly her) and do everything she said.
- So she poisoned her in a way that wouldn’t kill her but would take away her gift. (She figured if the queen couldn’t rely on her gift, she’d have to rely on the Council.)
- Lots of other people were in on it too. Including Gilbert, Illiana’s own foster brother. (Ouch!!)
- Francesca helps breed rivalry between the war-gifted leaders to pit them against each other.
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: I don’t have anything good for this one. It’s just more proof that we shouldn’t like poisoners (and especially the Arrons)? Okay, Francesca does claim that she chose to see the fact that the Goddess didn’t give Gilbert any warnings about her plans makes her believe the Goddess was in favor of them. I don’t buy it.
- The king-consort can’t keep it in his pants. Which makes Illiana jealous.
- It’s made clear over and over again that Illiana’s not very pretty.
- She loves William, and he made her feel special, so she’s pretty jealous when she figures out that he’s cheating (which isn’t hard to do since he doesn’t really hide his flirting).
- We learn that William is from Centra, and that Centra is a politically savvy place to pick a consort from.
- Apparently, many king-consorts cheat (but they usually wait for permission or for the queen to take a lover first). Cheating in Centra is a common thing because men don’t value women as highly there.
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: So, if king-consorts cheat sometimes, they probably have other kids out there, and those kids do not all become queens (or anything similar). So Jules’s father being a king-consort alone could not explain her being so powerful.
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: Maybe Queen Camille’s king-consort was the first to ever cheat on the Beltane, and that made the difference? (Seems unlikely though.)
- Other stuff we learn:
- The sight gift isn’t unlimited and typically doesn’t allow the person to know thoughts or sense emotions.
- “Visions can be misinterpreted. They can be unavoidable, or they can be a warning.”
- Fennbirn has been at war with the mainland because the last two out of three queens were War Queens. Elsabet now wants peace.
- We see the grave of a legion-cursed child who was put to death at age nine. She wasn’t burned (for some reason) but buried. Doesn’t seem super important except to emphasize that legion-cursed kids go mad (supposedly—I mean, that’s what they said about oracle queens too) and end up dead.
- PREDICTIONS/QUESTIONS: One of the commenters on my One Dark Throne spoilers post came up with this very interesting theory based on this novella: “I think Katharine has the gift of sight but she’s ingesting poison every day, so her gift, that hasn’t shown up yet, is being blocked like Queen Elsabet’s was.” I hadn’t considered this at all, but it makes sense. But maybe it’s the naturalist gift that was suppressed because of the poison (since we learn in TYQ that she was born a naturalist)?
I thought Jules was a blue queen too. The curse is an interesting direction though, because it can be a source of HUGE conflict, if/when they try to kill Jules, being as she is pretty tight with 2/3 queens. I like the idea that Katharine is an oracle. She has to have SOME sort of gift, right?
In The Young Queens, Queen Camille seems to say that Katharine is definitely a naturalist. But I hadn’t thought of the theory that the poison was suppressing her gift. And she COULD be an oracle too, I suppose. (Cait says that everyone on the island has a bit of the sight.)
The whole queens forgetting stuff has me really curious, as does the nature of the island- is it only sometimes in the same world as the mainland, does something happen when you go back and forth? And the Blue Queen thing- same here? What’s going on? Must knowww…
The Oracle Queen was shocking to me, in the sense that Elsabet did nothing and they were SO ruthless. Ugh the Arron’s. I thought this one was my favorite of the two, even though I liked The Young Queens, but Elsabet’s story just rocked me- the injustice of it all, and how the version that has come down to the current time is so skewed. I like the idea of poison suppressing Kat’s gift- that is interesting. I definitely think Kat’s story and her issue with her abilities is gonna play a HUGE role.
I agree that The Oracle Queen was the more interesting novella, even though I guess I had less to say about it—I think that’s just because it seemed to have less clues that directly related to the main story. And, yes, I was shocked to learn that Elsabet literally didn’t hurt anyone!
Perhaps the stone Jules and Arsinoe found when they were children was another “goddess stone”, and there could be three or four on the island. If it is, can the stone choose a new goddess bloodline but only if the queens of the previous are killed. Or maybe Jules and the other leading families are descendants from the first triplets/quadruplets. Idk?????!
I HOPE there’s another novella in the making about the beginning of the Queens and Fenbirn (the real name of the island), the start of corruption, and the goddess-but perhaps she should always remain a mystery. I love this series and it has been such an inspiration for the stories I’m writing.
Ooh, that would be a good novella. I hope you’re right! Glad you’ve been inspired by this series!
Wanted to point out the typos with Queen Elsabet’s name. (You said Illiana.) And also give my own opinions.
I for one am so hurt by the Oracle Queen. They did her so wrong that I started to cry. And I love that it’s a bit set apart from the series itself so that it can add more if you have read TDC and just be a fun read if you have not. I do hope that the Oracle Queen’s past and her true story comes to light, what with the traditions of old being broken on Fennibern. I also have a feeling that the Black Council is behind many, if not all of the traditions of the island. Save for the powers, and the young queens births. There seems to be something changing. Katherine’s violent personality change, thanks to Pietyr pushing her down the Breccia Domain, and it being revealed as the other, long dead queens, shows that things are shifting. As for Kat’s abilities, I don’t think they were being suppressed, but being poisoned for years could have stunted her gift growth along with her physical growth. Arsinoe’s true gift was revealed and she did have it, despite the past Queen’s prediction that it would be weak. Kat’s gift may be weak but it still should have been shown, had Genevieve not taken to poisoning her so much and so often. Also, the young legion cursed child was beheaded because she was a poisoner and there are limited ways to kill a poisoner with any kind of mercy.
With The Young Queens, I think that Jules is definitely special. I think they’re all special. My theory is that they are here in that generation to change the island for good. Why else would a young woman, as powerful as Jules is, and Legion Cursed (which people think weakens the gift and makes them mad), she must have an extremely important purpose, though I’m sure TDR will reveal more of that. I believe that many things told to the people are lies. The Queens who leave the island don’t forget, I don’t believe, and even if they used to, the weakening of the island could be a cause for them to not forget.
I know there was more but I’ve forgotten the rest. I’m full of ideas and possible ideas, honestly. And I cannot express how much Kendare Blake’s series has inspired me. I can’t wait to read the third book and for the 4th to be released.