Every generation there is a set of triplets born, each one having the gift of being a poisoner, elemental or a naturalist. When they are very young they are separated and taken to be raised by their respective houses and trained in their gift. When they are 16 they will attend a ceremony and use their gift to fight and kill each other. Last queen standing wins the crown.
Katharine is my favorite of the three sisters. She is a poisoner, and while she is very adept at making poisons she has not been able to build up a resistance to ingesting the poisons. She is the smallest and weakest of the three sisters from years of basically killing herself from all the different poisons she has taken.Despite being the weakest of her sisters, she is the most ruthless and determined. She has been raised and trained by the Arron family who has held control of the kingdom for many years and are not about to give up control now. Natalia Arron brings in her nephew Pietyr to help Katharine become strong and confident and the two end up falling for each other.
Arsinoe is the naturalist, although not a very good one. An awful one actually. She is supposed to be able to make flowers bloom and have a "familiar" pet. Her gift has yet to make an appearance. She is very headstrong, maybe even a little rebellious, but she is fiercely loyal to those she cares about. Jules is her best friend and the most powerful naturalist in decades. Joseph, Jules' love interest, has served 5 years on the mainland as punishment for trying to help Arsinoe escape 5 years earlier. When he returns he brings another boy back with him. Billy is a suitor and is supposed to introduce himself to all 3 queens as a potential king-consort. He becomes friends with Arsinoe and while they each say that there is no love between them there is definitely something there. Billy is devoted to Arsinoe and helps her to escape right before the Quickening.
Mirabella is an elemental and the strongest one of her sisters. She is taken in by the priestesses who are ruthless and will stop at nothing to see their Queen crowned. I found it very interesting that despite being the most powerful of her sisters, she does not want to kill them. She knows that as a rule queens are not supposed to love their sisters but she remembers her time with them as children and still cares for them.
The book did start off a little slow. At the beginning I found it hard to keep up with so many secondary characters but they are essential to the story. It seems as though it is the individual houses and the priestesses that are vying for power and control over Fennbirn and the queens are more of a figurehead. I do wish there had been more world building. Billy comes from the mainland, there is no magic or anything there and Fennbirn is becoming something of a myth. But there was no explanation of how they are able to get to the island sometimes and other times they are kept out by a fog. How do they even know of Fennbirn?? If I knew there was an island full of magic I would be on the next boat over there! Maybe in the next book there will be an explanation and more info about the island and the magic inside it.
Overall I really enjoyed this book! There are so many twists and sub-plots to keep you hooked. That ending was totally unexpected and I can't wait for the next book to see what happens!