YA Weekend Audio: Dark Skies 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.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 2 of Dark Shores
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (May 5, 2020)
Length: 16 hrs and 56 mins
Narrators: DeVante Johnson, Stephanie Willis
So, I’m a bit torn about this book. While it wasn’t bad for a sequel, I thought it somehow lacked the magic of the original. Sure, part of it might be due to the fact Dark Skies wasn’t a traditional follow-up, featuring a plotline that runs concurrently with the one in Dark Shores so that it could show a different side of the story. It might also be the fact the book switches focus to a new set of protagonists, who simply did not inspire the same level of interest for me.
In Dark Skies we follow Lydia and Killian. We’ve actually met Lydia before, briefly in the previous book as Teriana’s bookish scholar friend, but this time we get to experience the lead-up to the war through her eyes. The adopted daughter of a senator, Lydia has always felt like an outsider despite a life of privilege among the upper class of Cel society. Her features clearly mark her as a foreigner, and of course it also doesn’t help that she has a close friendship with Teriana of the Maarin traders. This causes Lydia’s father much concern about her future, especially with him in ill health. If he dies, Lydia would be left with nothing, putting her at the mercy of his political enemies. Thus, in an act of misguided love, he arranges a marriage between her and Lucius Cassius, the man poised to become the head of the Celendor Empire, believing that this would keep her safe.
However, Lucius has something else in mind, forcing Lydia to flee her home to escape his murderous schemes. She ends up on the far side of the Endless Seas, where she finds herself in Mudamora, which itself is trying to fight off an invasion from the Corrupter’s tireless armies. Killian is a commander who had already failed his people once, but he’s not about to let it happen again. Now sworn to the crown princess, he is under obligation to fulfill his royal bodyguard duties, though the position also grants him a new perspective on the political comings and goings of Mudamora. Joining forces with Lydia, the two of them must figure a way out of their predicament in order to save the kingdom.
Strangely enough, while the beginning parts were slow, they were perhaps my favorite sections of the book. I loved getting to know Lydia, particularly since I barely remembered her from Dark Shores. She was trapped in a dangerous conflict, a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type of situation where she found herself at the mercy of her father’s terrible choices, yet you couldn’t even really hate him because he was doing it all out of concern for his daughter.
Killian’s chapters, on the other hand, did not interest me at all, harsh as that may sound. He’s also trapped in his own way, struggling with immense pressure and the expectations placed upon his young shoulders, forcing him to take up a position with Princess Malahi after his disgrace. But for all that, I found him to be really bland with not much to distinguish him from an endless lineup of overdramatic male YA heroes who beat themselves up for not being able to save the whole world.
As the plot progressed, I started enjoying both POVs a bit more, though admittedly not by much. To be fair, we’re dealing with a pretty strange dynamic here where certain sections were rehashes of events from the previous book, and while I get that the novels are meant to complement each other so they can be read in either order, the feeling of repetitiveness lead to some frustration on my part. Quite honestly, I also missed the awesome maritime action and seafaring themes which were heavier in book one. And while we’re comparing notes, as I recall, things started off pretty slowly in Dark Shores as well, but improved once Teriana and Marcus’ paths crossed and the two started connecting on a deeper level. Sadly though, I didn’t quite catch that spark with Lydia and Killian, since I personally feel they lacked chemistry as a couple.
That said, I don’t want to make it sound like Dark Skies was a complete bust, because it absolutely wasn’t. I liked the way this book expanded the world-building, adding a lot more to what we know about the Endless Seas, including the lore of its people and their politics, religion, and culture. I would still seriously consider picking up the next installment, especially since I’ve read that the author plans to bring the characters and storylines of Dark Shores and Dark Skies together, and that’s something I would very much like to see.
Audiobook Comments: Being able to experience Dark Skies as an audiobook was pretty amazing actually, especially since it helped make getting through some of the more repetitive parts easier. Stephanie Willis and DeVante Johnson gave fantastic performances as the book’s narrators, infusing the characters’ voices with so much life and energy.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Dark Shores (Book 1)