YA Weekend: Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 1 of Dark Shores
Publisher: Tor Teen (May 7, 2019)
Length: 368 pages
Author Information: Website | Twitter
I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t want to read this. After the way Danielle L. Jensen’s first series ended, which left a horrible taste in my mouth that has lingered even after all this time, I’ve learned to be cautious of anything else she writes. However, because the description of Dark Shores sounded so enticing with its promise of sea-faring adventures and pirates, ultimately I decided it might be worth a shot.
Fortunately, in the end, the book gave me no cause to regret that decision. But still, the first quarter or so of this was a little rough. Granted, there was a lot to set up for the premise, which features a setting inspired by Ancient Rome, a fractured empire rife with infighting and rebellion, characters from both sides of the divide including a mariner princess and a soldier of the legion. In this world, conquest is the name of the game, and the Celendor Empire means to win it. Ruled by a corrupt and power-hungry senate, the Cel have long a long history of subjugating nations and their peoples in the name of bringing in more wealth for themselves. Now the only places they have left to conquer are the seas and Dark Shores, the near mythical land on the other side of the world.
But the sea also has its own protectors to guard its secrets. Teriana is heir to the Maarin Triumvirate, a culture of sailors and traders belonging to no land and whose livelihoods depend on the sea. But the election of Lucius Cassius to the head of the Celendor Empire now threatens everything Teriana holds dear. A ruthless tyrant, Cassius is determined to plunder the riches of Dark Shores, ordering his forces to put pressure on the Maarin because they alone possess the knowledge on how to get there. Forced to reveal her people’s secret to the Cel as part of a bargain to spare the lives of her crew and family, Teriana is placed under the authority of Marcus, the commander of the notorious Thirty-Seventh legion. Forsaken for her betrayal, Teriana has no choice but to pray she chose the lesser evil, trusting in Marcus to do the right thing.
Thankfully, the story picks up significantly in terms of pacing and interest beyond this point. Dark Shores was definitely a book that needed to grow on me, and I’m glad I persevered because both the plot and characters got better once the main journey got underway. It’s perhaps no coincidence that this was also when our two protagonists finally connected on a deeper level, reaching an understanding between themselves which went beyond simply acknowledging each other—sure, an alliance of convenience at this point, but I liked how it was nuanced by the weight of the political impact behind their choices. And of course, it also planted the seeds of their romance that came later, making the relationship more believable and convincing.
As to my feelings for the individual characters though, unfortunately I never really warmed towards Teriana. She came across as immature and needlessly belligerent, and very often her behavior or some of the childish things she would say would pull me right out of immersion. In some ways, she reminds me a lot of V.E. Schwab’s female characters—having an attitude for the sake of having an attitude, which grew tiresome after a while. Thankfully, Marcus fared better. He at least had the bearing of a commanding officer, though I felt at times his character was too idealized and seemingly adored by everyone. Unfortunately, the author seems to have a tendency to oversell her protagonists, making their positive attributes feel forced. Though to her credit, some of the best characters and my favorite people in the book come from the supporting cast, many of whom come across more natural and realistic.
I also mentioned some issues with pacing at the beginning, which happily ironed themselves out as the story progressed so that much of the majority of the book actually ended up being an entertaining and quick read. The ending, however, felt way too abrupt. I think part of this also had to do with some of the unnecessary drama in the romance, which just didn’t feel too organic. Still, I want to stress that despite my complaints, I had fun with this book. I wouldn’t have thought Teriana and Marcus would have worked that well based on their contrasting personalities, but they ended up having a great dynamic on the page.
Bottom line, I had a good time with Dark Shores, which in itself isn’t too surprising considering how much I also enjoyed the author’s Malediction trilogy right up until the final chapter of the third book where she blindsided me with a cruel parting shot. So far, this novel is showing some excellent potential, and so long as Jensen doesn’t rip my heart out and stomp it to pieces like that again, I think this new series and I will get along just fine.
When an author rips and stomps in one series, better be prepared for the same thing in another
Here’s hoping the author learned from the mistake! The third book in that series did get criticized heavily due to that ending, you can see the savage ratings and reviews on Goodreads.
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“Potential” sounds like a promising word – as is the mention of pirates… 😉
A series to keep on one’s radar and see how it fares in the long run.
Thanks for sharing!
Yup, I love a good maritime fantasy series. Could stand to be more “piratey” though 😀
I’ve been a little leery of this as well. Since I didn’t get a review copy, I’ll be passing on this, even though it sounds like it has some great moments.
I almost passed on this too because it was an unsolicited review copy, but my library also go the audiobook and I was able to snag it without being on a wait list, so I tag teamed audio and print and was able to quickly knock it out. It was fun for what it is!
I decided not to, dang, I should have gone for it, still, eh maybe I would have found it meh
Admittedly, for a YA I would say it’s pretty average, but sometimes that’s the kind of YA I just want to go for 🙂
Love the conclusion… will be looking for your review of the next installments 🙂
Crossing my fingers that the author won’t break my heart again! 😀
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I definitely struggled with this at the beginning but, like you, enjoyed it more once the adventure got underway. Teriana – never really won me over, too much ‘woe is me’ going on and she felt very immature – okay, she is only young, but her immaturity and lack of experience made me wonder why she was second mate. Marcus was easier to read. In some ways this book was almost like a revelation for me – I do sometimes struggle with YA and in particular the lack of attention to certain details, but, at one point in the book it’s like I decided to simply drop my little issues and read the book as a fun adventure and that helped me a great deal.
I can see that. I think I had a very similar experience. Once the adventure got underway, the story definitely got more fun and interesting, plus I also started getting into the rhythm of things and accepting the book’s “YA-ness”, haha 😀
Excellent review! I really dislike (female) characters having an attitude for the sake of having an attitude either, so I can totally relate as to why you didn’t connect. I’m glad your patience paid off towards the end, though now I’m wondering how bad the author’s previous books must’ve been for you to feel your heart was ripped out and stomped on… 🤔 😉
Well, it was only the final ending of the trilogy, like literally the last chapter of the third book. Oh it was horrible. The book’s name is The Warrior Witch if you want to check out how heartbroken I was after reading it, I talked a little about the crappy ending in my review. Basically, I think the author tried to go for “bittersweet” and overdid it, ending up with something closer to “roundhouse kick her readers in the teeth”. Everyone was so blindsided and betrayed by how she decided to end things. It was just cruel.
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Great review! This is a book I’ve been eyeing. I’ve only read one other of her books, but definitely want to read more of her stuff.
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