Book Review: GILDED SERPENT by Danielle L. Jensen

Title in yellow on black next to gold serpent on burning coins
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4.5
Series: yes - book 3

*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for TARNISHED EMPIRE, DARK SHORES, and DARK SKIES*

Synopsis:

THEIR BATTLES ENDED IN VICTORY

Lydia returns to Mudaire to enter training at the healing temple. But instead of fighting to save lives, she’s convinced she is doing more harm than good. She delves into the history of the gods only to discover a truth that will change her life forever.

His birthright as commander of the Royal Army is finally in his grasp, but Killian feels anything but victorious. Burdened by his past, he embraces the darker side of his mark—and in doing so, risks starting a war.

BUT THE WAR HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN

Having defeated the tyrant Urcon, Marcus struggles to form a lasting alliance with the Arinoquians. But he is plagued by the knowledge that there is a traitor among his friends, and it could cost him everything that he’s fought for.

Torn between her growing allegiance to the Thirty-Seventh legion and her need to liberate her people, Teriana finds herself mired in a web of secrets. She embarks upon a path that will either save everyone she loves—or put them all in their graves.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

GILDED SERPENT is a chonky book. Over 550 pages looks thick enough before you realise the font and spacing in this book is much smaller than the other entries. That’s because this book is about 190k, which is about twice the average length of a YA SFF (and significantly longer than your average adult SFF.)

I’m glad I’d known from some of the promo that Teriana, Marcus, Killian, and Lydia don’t meet up in this book. If I hadn’t, I would have been very disappointed that they didn’t meet up in this book. I’m not typically a big fan of multi-POVs where the characters aren’t deeply linked, but here the characters are linked by circumstances at the start of the first two books and the knowledge that they’re fighting different wars that will collide badly.

GILDED SERPENT is deep into the series (where the rules are different vs a first book), so I already know the characters. Which is essential given its size – and the main reason the book works. Lydia and Killian’s story is very separate to Marcus and Teriana’s – no overlap at all. They could have been separate books, like DARK SHORES and DARK SKIES are, with no loss of comprehension.

However, after a book dedicated to each set of characters, it would have been rather frustrating to not see both, and it helps with balance when characters drop out as there’s less happening for them. For example, Killian is hardly in the first 30 chapters.

Despite it being an absolute brick of a book, the pacing is brilliant. Lots of short chapters (looking even shorter thanks to the formatting) propel the book through the two storylines. Marcus and Teriana’s situation was particularly gripping, and made me want to know what was happening elsewhere – how much chaos and violence was unfolding behind them. At first, I thought it was odd not having a POV following those they’d left behind, but then I realised the mystery and unease was very powerful (not to mention how much bigger the book would have been!)

The prequel, TARNISHED EMPIRE, is a self-published book, but absolutely does need to be read before this. Yes, there are some occasional lines explaining X or Y, but there’s so much missing, and it will mean so much less to you as a reader when Agrippa turns up (yay! But also not where I was expecting him to and it makes me want the next book even more to see him meet Marcus again after all these years.)

There is no word for the ending but cruel. Such a cliffhanger to leave with as we head into the final book – characters separated, captured, or deeply wounded. Roll on the next (and final, no!) instalment.


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

Young Adult:

Dark Shores (this series):

The Malediction Trilogy:

Adult:

The Bridge Kingdom:

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