What do you do in a pandemic? Read!
What do you do when it’s been strongly suggested that you self-isolate for 8 weeks because you fall into a high-risk category? Read fantasy!
And so, today it is my absolute joy to be presenting a ARC review for Danielle L. Jensen’s second instalment in the Dark Shores series, Dark Skies. If you crave imagination, beautifully wrought characters, and meticulously crafted systems of magic then you should seriously consider pre-ordering this baby – it’s May 5 publication day can’t come fast enough!
Title: Dark Skies
Series Title: Dark Shores
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy
Themes: Magic, Romance, Tyranny, Rebellion, Survival
My Rating: 5/ 5
A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.
A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.
A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.
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Sometimes a series suffers from the second book slump – they have this great opening, and a fantastic conclusion, but that book in the middle is just a bridge to get you from A to B. Friends, Dark Skies is NOT that book. If anything, it’s even better than Dark Shores and I freaking loved that book!
When the book was first announced I was saddened to hear that Dark Skies would be an alternate beginning that stepped away from Teriana and Marcus and instead followed Lydia and Killian. I’m not going to lie, I wanted more of my old friends and a bit of steamy escapist romance to add some levity to these trying times, but between a few chapters of overlap in the beginning and some serious character building and backstory through the eyes of those that know Teriana, those feelings of separation anxiety didn’t last long. In fact, the stories of these four characters were so expertly intermeshed that it felt as though they were written simultaneously – there were no gaps or continuity errors, and each character provided a different facet to another’s character development. The result was a beautiful juxtaposition between personal introspection and public perception that really drew me in.
And while I wasn’t exactly Lydia’s biggest fan in Dark Shores, she turned out to be exactly the heroine that I needed to read. Nerdy, introverted, and physically weak she was a surprisingly atypical female lead. She’s terrible with a sword, her magic makes her weak to the point where she needs almost constant protection when she’s using it, and she lacks even the basic street smarts needed to care of herself on a good day (let alone one a bad one when she’s thrust into a world she doesn’t know) and yet she somehow manages to get by on sheer nerve and book smarts alone. Yet, her naivety and determination brought a good deal of humour to a dark and rather hopeless situation, and now I can’t wait to see where she’ll go in book three.
Killian is another fabulous character, made only the better because of his flaws. He walks a precarious line between what is expected of him and what he is compelled by his mark to do, what the world believes a Marked soldier is and the reality of the experience, and those he is sworn to and those that he loves. He is pulled in so many directions at any given time that it’s almost impossible not to let your own heartstrings get tangled in his mess. He is resourceful, determined, and loyal to fault – I have no doubt that when he finally comes face to face with Marcus there will be some serious friction between these two bull-headed battle prodigies.
I could talk about the slow burn romance that leaves you dangling off a cliff (noooo, I’m not salty about that, AT ALL), or a high court that has misdirection and manipulation down to a tee, but instead I’m going to focus on the magic and world building. Because, seriously, OMG! Jensen has taken on the behemoth task of creating not just one or two kingdoms with variant beliefs, but an entire world where the disparate parts are so unique that they’re almost unrecognizable from one another. And the level of originality is practically next level. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fairy/ elf/ fae/ witch/ mage story as much as the next fantasy fan girl but I adored being able to get lost in this story without any preconceived notions about the people or how the magic should work.
With Dark Skies and Dark Shores serving as companion novels, where either can be read as the first book in the series, I highly suggest you dive into this world with reckless abandon. Let yourself get swept up in the dangerous games of politics and romance, soak up the subtle critiques on critiques on colonialism and patriarchy, and ride along with your favourite new characters as they rebel against everything that was ever expected from them.
Read it book lovers, you won’t regret a single sentence.
I requested and received a review copy of this title through #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.