Book Review: DARK SHORES by Danielle L. Jensen

Title in yellow on dark blue next to a ship pierced by a sword on a ship's wheel
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Yes - book 1

Synopsis:

Book cover for DARK SHORES: A ship pierced by a sword in front of a pearl decorated wooden roundel

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 SAILOR 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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Thoughts:

Danielle L. Jensen has posted about the fact that this is not a pirate book, and has (somehow) managed this without casting blame or negativity on her publisher who called Teriana a pirate in the blurb. I was pleasantly please to find the above blurb on Goodreads. The blurb on my copy of the book says ‘Pirate’ in place of ‘Sailor’.

This is not a pirate book in any sense of the word. Teriana is a sea-based merchant, and not interested in plunder or conquest. She, her crew and her people are traders protecting the secret of their home from the ruthless Celendor Empire. Over half the book takes place on form land.

I wish this had been communicated more clearly by the publisher on social media. If I hadn’t been following Danielle on Instagram I wouldn’t have been aware of it and may have been disappointed. However, this distinction from being a ‘pirate book’ should be celebrated. With the YA market currently swimming with pirate books, not being one really makes DARK SHORES stand out.

The plot is a nuanced look at conquest and why people, on every side, may work for the conquerors. There are many shades of wrong and right, rather than a black and white viewpoint.  Teriana betrays the location and access to Dark Shores for her family. It has terrible consequences, and she dooms thousands (if not millions) to save a few dozen.

Not once does Marcus (or Danielle) try to pretend away everything that he’s done for the Empire. Sure, there are reasons and context, but it’s never excused and brushed off as ‘the right thing’. I really like that, as so often I find that books give characters terrible pasts and then try to say it doesn’t count. Even with the circumstances around Marcus’ actions, what he’s done still “counts”. It felt like the theme was “good people still do bad things, and whatever the reason, it’s still bad”. It’s an approach I haven’t seen enough, and one that we need more of.

The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I hoped. It felt rather quick and very much like the first book in the series. Teriana had made no progress towards her goals and hadn’t prompted the finale.

It was a climax for Marcus, and really Marcus alone. He was the one who’d made progress towards his goals as well as being the most active in the final section.

I’d have liked it if Teriana had more of a role and had made more progress towards her goals. She needed either a victory on her path towards saving her people or a defeat. It didn’t need to be big, but it would have made the finale more satisfying as she starts off feeling like the main character, but then has no real milestone at the end.

I’m excited for the next book. It will be with different characters, so I’ll have to wait until B3 to see Teriana (hopefully) make progress towards her goals. However, I’m looking forwards to seeing the world expanded and the nuanced look at conquest to continue.


Read my reviews of other books by Danielle L. Jensen:

Young Adult:

Dark Shores (this series):

The Malediction Trilogy:

Adult:

The Bridge Kingdom:

2 thoughts on “Book Review: DARK SHORES by Danielle L. Jensen

  1. I didn’t even know that Dark Shores isn’t a pirate book! I guess I had just assumed it based on the cover and the description, but that’s interesting knowing that it’s not! I’ve been reading another of her books The Bridge Kingdom, but I definitely want to read Dark Shores too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The marketing certainly seems to make it out as a pirate book, but it’s not – and so much better for that. I hope you enjoy DARK SHORES.

      I have THE BRIDGE KINGDOM on my shelves right now, waiting for my TBR to let up enough that I can dive right it. Hoping I’ll love it!

      Like

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