Fans of Kendare Blake’s work will notice that she has a penchant for the macabre.
Her first two young adult fiction series are about a ghost-killer who meets the vengeful, homicidal ghost of a murdered girl who strangely spares his life (the Anna duology), and Greek gods Athena and Hermes trying to find out why their compatriots are dying gruesomely – think feathers growing within the body and flesh-eating fevers (the Goddess War trilogy).
Blake’s latest novel, Three Dark Crowns, carries on the dark theme with the story revolving around triplet sisters raised to kill each other to win the crown of the enchanted island of Fennbirn.
When asked why her books have these dark currents running through them, Blake says: “That’s the million dollar question.
“I have dark tastes myself, and a dark sense of humour. Twisted, you might say. But I’m also fairly well-adjusted, and well-meaning. Had a trauma-free childhood.
“I did read Stephen King, Anne Rice and Bret Easton Ellis far too young, but there was a reason I picked up those books in the first place. It’s not like I was locked in a basement with only those to choose from.”
She was replying to Star2’s questions via e-mail from her home in Kent, Washington.
Interestingly, the genesis of Three Dark Crowns lies in a random conversation Blake had about honey bees.
“There was a swarm in a tree outside a book event and we were worried someone might get stung. But one of the attendees was a beekeeper and she told us we’d be fine because a swarm is only interested in protecting the queen in the middle.
“She and I talked a bit about queen bees, and how in each generation there are multiple queens born but the strongest kills her sisters and takes over the hive.
“I thought it was so harsh! I couldn’t wait to make people do it,” she shares, adding that she chose triplets simply because she likes the number three.
Blake admits, however, that it was not an easy story to write, mainly because it was the first time she was setting a story in a fantasy world. Despite their fantastical elements, her other books are set in our world.
She says: “In a way, that was very freeing, but it also required a lot of writing to discover the world for myself, and a lot of that first draft became just that – a learning process for me that wasn’t actually necessary to the particular story I was telling.
“So it took a few tries to discover where the story actually started and what the reader should know.
“And then I re-wrote the whole thing over, twice I think, because I hadn’t quite nailed the tone.”
An interesting aspect of the world she created is its magic system.
Most of those born on Fennbirn are endowed with one of five magical gifts: controlling the elements (elementals), controlling flora and fauna (naturalists), immunity against poisons (poisoners), a talent for war (which has telekinetic elements, but wasn’t really ex-plained otherwise) and for seeing the future (foresight).
Blake shares that she chose those gifts as they were the ones she liked best.
She explains: “There are numerous, nearly endless possibilities for powers (I mean how many X-Men are there?), but I wanted a society where the magical gifts were shared among the people and separated them like class and culture would.
“It felt very organic to the story.”
The power structure of the island is tied intimately to the gift the ruling queen possesses. Not only do more people develop the same gift as the queen, but the most powerful family with that same gift also dominates the Black Council, which helps rule the island.
“So there are more poisoners now than ever before, after three poisoner queens, even though two of those queens were relatively weak.
“There has not been a war queen in many generations, and their gift and numbers have dwindled. It is the same with those with the gift of sight, who are also prone to madness and early death.
“The naturalists seem slightly immune to this weakening, though perhaps that is because their gift is so vital to the island,” Blake explains.
Blake has just finished writing the concluding sequel to Three Dark Crowns, titled One Dark Crown.
When asked for hints on what to expect in that book, she gives the rather vague and obvious (to those who have read Three Dark Crowns) answer of, “Well, the Ascension Year has officially begun, with all that that implies. There will be more festivals, and the suitors must be dealt with. By the end, someone will be wearing a crown.”
She also has good news for readers who have fallen in love with the world in this duology.
“As soon as I finish the last touches on One Dark Throne, I will start working on the next books in the follow-up duo.
“They will feature more about the island and a few queens of the past, as well as what happens to the characters who survive the first books.”