ARC Review: Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen

Dark Shores (Dark Shores, #1)Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.

A PIRATE WITH A WILL OF IRON

Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.

A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET

Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.

A DANGEROUS QUEST

When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.

Warnings: mentions of war, slavery and genocide, physical violence, torture

First of all, while the cover and synopsis might give the idea that this book is about pirates and adventure, it is not really that. I mean, sure, one of the main characters belongs to a race of seafaring pirates, there is no actual piracy happening in the book, and okay, yeah there is adventure, but not the joyous quest you would expect. No, what this book is actually about is political machinations and conquests. In fact, this is about the events before an invasion, and it goes into quite a lot of detail about how they go about it, how they conquer – it is not just a simple process of sending over soldiers, but an insidious assimilation.

So, the world-building is very important to the plot of the story, because that is where the root of the problems is – there are two continents – one in the East and one in the West and they don’t know about the existence of the other because of a vast ocean, and due to the efforts of Terianna’s people. They guard this secret with their lives AND afterlives, and since they belong to a religion on the Eastern continent, they take this duty very seriously. The Western continent has mostly been conquered by Celdaria, a Roman-inspired Empire, with legions of soldiers made from second sons given to the empire. Celdaria has a new Senator grasping at power, and he has turned his sights on the mythical Dark Shores, the Eastern continent.

Marcus is blackmailed into going to the Eastern continent, but he is also doing it to get away from the reach of the Senator. Meanwhile, Ter has been coerced to lead his legion through the dangerous sea voyage, with her crew members/family’s life in the balance. At the start and through much of the book, these two are enemies to each other, with cross purposes – she wants to prevent them reaching there because she doesn’t want any other country falling under Celdarian rule; Marcus never wants to go back so he is very intent on making this new continent his new home. He also has had a hideous past, infamous for leading the invasion into Chersome which resulted in the genocide of its people. The plot doesn’t try to justify his actions, or hers, as they both have to do things that would put the Eastern continents at risk to fall under Celdarian rule. Their relationship is also fraught with tension, considering their purposes, but also their obvious attraction to each other.

Last of all, I want to comment on the world-building that this book excelled in. Usually in fantasy, conquests and invasions are a matter of battle and war and such, and while this book does have that, it also explores the various other ways such things can be achieved, like through political manipulations, cleverly made alliances, and sly utilization of existing conflicts. It was chilling how efficient Celdaria was in doing so, and while, like Ter, I had assumed the existence of divine magic in the East would give them an advantage, by the end of the book I, too, was convinced it looks more evenly matched now. Speaking of divine magic, the mythology is interesting but I am also interested in the motives of the gods – it is clear there is more than meets the eye when it comes to them. The book does leave a lot of questions unanswered – I could make a list – but I am guessing those are being kept as threads to continue into the next book, so I hope the mystery of those will be solved in that.

Overall, it is a masterfully constructed fantasy, with a different approach to war and conquest, though it does confuse at times. Also, this book definitely deserved a map!

Is it diverse? One of the main characters is a black girl; secondary queer and PoC characters

Received an advance reader copy through a giveaway.

View all my reviews

Buy links

The Book Depository | Wordery

Released on May 7, 2019

2 thoughts on “ARC Review: Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen

  1. Pingback: Diversity Spotlight Thursday #63 | YA on my Mind

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