ARC Review: TARNISHED EMPIRE by Danielle L. Jensen

I received an eARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in yellow on grey smoke next to image of roman soldier
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: yes - prequel


Book cover for TARNISHED EMPIRE: roman soldier stars out surrounded by grey clouds behind gold title


A siege is laid against the last resistance to the Senate’s rule. As the battle rages, a commander, a soldier, and a rebel will decide how far they are willing to go for victory.

THE COMMANDER: Marcus is forced to choose between destroying the rebel forces and liberating his legion. He must face the true cost of being a leader. And an oppressor.

THE SOLDIER: Agrippa sets his sights on glory to fill the deepening void within him. He discovers that the price of fame might not just be paid in blood, it might be paid by his heart.

THE REBEL: Silvara joins the rebel forces to fight against the legions who would see her family dead. While she dreams of being a warrior, she finds her sharpest weapon is seduction. But to defeat the Empire, she’ll have to betray the young man who now has her heart.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This book can be read before the first two books, or after them – though it is strenuously recommended that it’s read before the third instalment comes out this year. I read this having already read DARK SHORES and DARK SKIES, but I am planning on using it to start my re-read of the series ahead of GILDED SERPENT. Certainly, the ending makes a bit more sense if you’ve read the other books, and thus understand exactly what happened to Agrippa.

TARNISHED EMPIRE is a self-published prequel, clearly there to set up some characters and elements ahead of the third book, GILDED SERPENT. That’s two reasons why I think people won’t pick this book up as readily – which is a pity as it is a lot of fun, and has only made me more eager for the next book to be published.

This book gives another insight into Marcus’ personality, and why he makes the brutal decisions he does. In DARK SHORES he’s got a lot of freedom once he’s on the other side of the world, but here we see him under the thumb of a greedy politician and a cruel yet lazy commanding officer. I really liked seeing him fight for his men in such limited space. He is a brilliantly drawn character – so complex, sympathetic despite never being portrayed as the victim or with handy narrative excuses for his action.

The action is set around one of the campaigns the 37th legion are sent on – not the big Chersome campaign that casts a bloody shadow over Marcus in the main series (I really want to see that – another prequel novella please?), but the campaign before. Marcus is still relatively junior, just making his name, and it leads to some political infighting which I naturally loved.

Agrippa is an all-new character, one of the senior officers in Marcus’ legion with a smart mouth and a whole heap of resentment. His irreverence is brilliant, and brings a dark of dark humour to the tense scenes. The dynamic between him and Marcus is the most engaging part of the book, and I can’t wait to see how that pays off in the rest of the series.

A slight spoilers to those who’ve read DARK SKIES, but what happened to Agrippa is pretty similar to what happened to Lydia. This felt a bit like a cheat in order to get him into place for GILDED SERPENTS. Either way, I am excited to see Agrippa return in the next book – particularly seeing him and Marcus meet again after so many years.

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

Young Adult:

Dark Shores (this series):

The Malediction Trilogy:


The Bridge Kingdom:

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