by Danielle L. Jensen
Author Danielle L. Jensen has been incredibly active on Instagram lately, as most of us have been during these stay at home orders. It was because of her posts on IG that I decided to take a more in depth look into her books. And what would you know, I had a copy of her first book in the Dark Shores series sitting on my Kindle in the form of a Netgalley ARC.
Danielle had been promoting the second novel in this series, Dark Skies, which was at the time available for download on Netgalley (and will be available everywhere May 5th). There’s honestly nothing that puts me in the mood to read more than the premise of a binge read.
I picked up Dark Shores and was plunged into a world with female (and male) pirates, demigods in the form of giant sea monsters, and soldiers who had been forced to leave their parents at a young age as a tax to the empire. This story is massive, but it all worked so incredibly well.
This book does something I L O V E. That’s right! Multiple POV baby! We follow a 17 year old female pirate, Teriana, and the head of the 37th band of soldiers, Marcus. As soon as the soldiers were introduced, both through Teriana’s lens and through Marcus’, I knew I would get along with them just fine. They have the comradery and banter that comes with years of training and surviving together. The chemistry between the men, including some of their more complicated dynamics, were fascinating to listen to.
Oh yeah, I should mention that Dark Shores is my first completed audio book, as an adult! It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying the experience on my kindle, but my brain and eyeballs could not keep looking at a screen after reading all day for work. This audio book was incredible, voiced by both a male and a female actor who did amazing accents for each new character that was introduced. I highly recommend this audio book to anyone who is willing to give this medium a try.
The plot of this story was rich and vast. There were so many underlying elements that got dug up as the story evolved, and motives upon motives per character. We got to watch Marcus and Teriana fight to remain in control of their own narrative, while slowly learning that maybe they should be working together instead of against each other. There were so many times during this audio book when I was talking out loud to the characters for being adorable imbeciles, clutching my hair, hands pressed over my eyes, or biting my lip in anxiety.
There were a few times throughout the novel where information is dumped on the reader, because our characters have reached a new location, a new god/goddess is introduced, or a new group of people are discovered. These scenes slowed the story down a little bit, but also helped bring a general sense of understanding about how or why things took place in the upcoming chapters.
This story did so many things well. It tackled race in a wonderfully non discriminatory way. It discussed sexuality among soldiers in a way that normalized any preference. And it tried unraveling the process of conquering nations, and the motives or actions that drive these types of conquests. I say tried to unravel because the characters are still coming to terms and toiling with the repercussions of these actions. They don’t have all the answers yet, and in many aspects they themselves are peeling back years and years of imposed jargon and propaganda.
This novel also discusses what it truly means to be good or evil. Do evil actions for the greater good make someone good or bad? Do good intentions that cause chaos and destruction make you good or bad? While this may not have been answered in this first book of the series, it did give you room to question morality, and what these characters are up against. I think by the end of the book both characters realized that what started out as black or white, is now a fine shade of grey.
I loved this book so much, I got out of bed at 11:30pm to order myself a copy from bookoutlet, and then preordered the second book Dark Skies, from my local independent bookstore. If someone asked me today, right now, what my favorite book of 2020 was, it would be Dark Shores. Without question. I’ve read a few books where part of a character’s adventure takes place on a ship, but I’ve never read a story where the main character is a Pirate Princess. Teriana gives off such strong, bold, Gryffindor vibes, while Marcus is so clearly a Slytherin, my little green heart could barely handle him half the time. Not only did Danielle make me fall in love with Teriana and Marcus, but all the side characters as well! If you get the chance to pick this up on audio book (via your public library and Libby), please do! Now I’m off to go binge read my ARC of Dark Skies, while I await my preordered copy to arrive.
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