Why Everyone Should Read Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen

Hey, lovelies! I’ve had this post idea on my list of ideas for what feels like forever. I’m here today to finally attempt it. I’m not sure how this post will do, but I’m excited to share some of the reasons that I adore the Dark Shores series. Just as a disclaimer, I will not be sharing anything that is a spoiler. I will be talking about all three published books in the series, but nothing with spoilers.

First off, a bit about this book and series. There are currently three published books in this series. Dark Shores, Dark Skies, and Gilded Serpent. I’ve read the first two books more than once. I also was lucky enough to read all three books when they were advanced copies. These books easily became favorites by the time I finished them. I gave all three books 5 stars and I don’t foresee that changing with the fourth and final book, Scorched Earth, which is coming December 2022.

Book Cover

“In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.
A SAILOR WITH A WILL OF IRON. Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.
A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET. Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.
A DANGEROUS QUEST. When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.”

A fun fact about this series: the first two books in this series can be read in two ways. The first book follows Teriana and Marcus. The second book follows Lydia and Killian. But both of these books are happening at the same time. So, you could start reading this series with either Dark Shores or Dark Skies before moving onto whichever you didn’t start with. I’ve never seen this done with any other books, so, I think that’s such an interesting thing about the series.

Book Cover

“A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST. Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.
A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE. Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.
A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE. With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.”

I think you should read this series because if you don’t love Teriana and Marcus (which you absolutely will), then you will definitely love Lydia and Killian. Or the other way around. I think Teriana is my favorite character in the series with Killian as a close second. Teriana is essentially a princess. She’s the Maarin heir. I very easily fell in love with the Maarin culture and people. These people are the only ones that know about both the Celendor Empire and Mudamora. Seeing her internal battle of keeping the secrets of her people and saving the lives of her crew and mother was such an emotional journey.

Book Cover

“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.”

Killian is from Mudamora, so we learn most of what we know about their culture and people from him. We learn about the mythology of their gods (which is another one of my favorite things about this series.) Killian is Marked by the God of War. But things aren’t going so well for him. He’s disappointing his family. He’s letting the Corrupter win, or that’s what it feels like to him anyway. Killian is a character that feels as if every responsibility is on his shoulders. Everything is his burden to bare and no one else’s. I really liked that even though Killian was Marked by the God of War, he showed us that he was more than that. After losing an important battle, he’s assigned to guard the princess and it’s there that he shows his cleverness for politics. But once he’s living in the city, we also see how incredibly kind he is.

Book Cover

The covers for this series are absolutely incredible. I remember seeing Dark Shores and thinking ‘wow, what a beautiful cover’ and now we have one for book four (pictured to the right) which I didn’t know had been revealed. It literally took my breath away for a second when I first saw it. All four covers for this series are stunning. They just keep getting better and better. My library has the whole series, but I love the books and the covers so much that I had to buy physical copies for my bookshelves so that I could display them. I know I should talk more about the content of the series, but I just really had to mention my infatuation with these covers. Let me know what you think of them!

This is a fantasy series, but there is some excellent romance included. It’s a little obvious that the romantic interests are Teriana with Marcus and Lydia with Killian (though there are plot twists with Lydia and Killian that make it even better.) It took a bit longer for me to get invested in the romance between Teriana and Marcus because Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh legion. So, this was sort of a romance between a soldier and a prisoner of his government, which I didn’t always love. But once the 37th legion is out of the Celendor Empire, we really get to know them as people. They are more than unwilling soldiers trying to do their job. It was definitely easier to like Lydia and Killian together (I think they are my favorite couple from the series), but I did really love Teriana and Marcus by the end of the first book and again when we see them in book three.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for sticking with me and my love for these books. I want to mention that there isn’t yet a synopsis for the fourth book. But that cover, oh boy. I also want to mention the prequel book, Tarnished Empire. This is a full length novel that’s marked as Dark Shores 0.5, but on Jensen’s website, she’s said to read it before Gilded Serpent, but if you’re new to this series, you could start with this book as it’s set a few years before Dark Shores and follows Marcus. But you should read it before Gilded Serpent because it follows a character we meet in the third book.

Book Cover

“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.
DEFIANCE IS TREASON. TREASON IS DEATH. Inspired by the harsh world of ancient Rome, readers are obsessed with this martial tale of fiery romance, friendship, and enmity. Told from three points of view, Tarnished Empire is filled with twists you’ll never see coming but will keep you turning the pages all night.
Tarnished Empire is set in the world of Danielle L. Jensen’s Dark Shores. But readers new to the world can begin here.”

I actually haven’t read Tarnished Empire yet because I found it after I’d already reread the first two books and read Gilded Serpent. I was in a bit of a reading slump at the time, so I saved it. I’m glad I did because now I can read it this fall. It says in the synopsis that it has three points of view, which is one of the other things I loved and wanted to talk about with the other books. Dark Shores and Dark Skies both follow two points of view. Teriana and Marcus for the first book. Lydia and Killian for the second book. But when we get to Gilded Serpent, we are following all four perspectives. I was excited about this but mildly worried that it would be too many. I’m happy to report that it absolutely wasn’t. The four perspectives worked really well for the third book, especially since the four characters hadn’t all come together yet. So, we get to see all the things that have to happen for them to finally come together toward the end of Gilded Serpent. I think there was enough build up and anticipation to keep me from getting bored with any one point of view. I’m very excited to read the final book with the four points of view, as well as, Tarnished Empire, which has three points of view.

Alright, that’s what I have for you all. Some of the reasons that I love this series. The world is fascinating. The romance is to die for. The characters are well developed and (mostly) easy to love. And I still can’t get over those covers. Please let me know your thoughts on this post. I’ve never done a ‘review’ like this before, so I’m interested to see what you all think of it! Have you read this series or any books by this author?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen

Summary:
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.

Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores, #3)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of Gilded Serpents in exchange for complete honesty about how much this book destroyed me. I reread both book one and book two via the audiobooks (which were really great and I recommend them!!) so the world and characters were fresh in my mind when I started this book.
Jensen somehow managed to give me all of the things to make my heart happier than it’s ever been for these characters and yet still rip it still beating right out of my chest. In Gilded Serpents, the four characters that we’ve come to love so very much in the first two books, Teriana, Marcus, Lydia, and Killian, all have their own points of view. And much like how book one and book two paralleled one another with their timelines, book three does that as well. But one of the most interesting things that I noticed was how the events of Marcus and Teriana’s journey paralleled events of Killian and Lydia’s journey. There were times during the story that both pairs were doing the same or similar things, like staying at an inn for example, and I thought that was such a fun aspect of the story. I just want these four to finally all meet up so badly I could scream. I also want to say, there’s a secret that’s finally revealed in this book that I’ve been suspecting since reading Lydia’s book (Dark Skies) and I’m not surprised that I was right but I was happy to have it confirmed. I also really loved that the characters are finally learning things. While Lydia learned where Teriana was in Dark Skies, Teriana has no idea that everyone thinks Lydia dead. So, secrets are revealed in this one and they are juicy.
Now, all four of these characters have grown immensely throughout their journeys so far. Lydia, while no expert swordswoman, has learned to defend herself. She’s also learned an incredible amount about her magic. She’s smart and determined, clever and stubborn, fierce and passionate. I love her so much. She’s grown so much from the timid patrician girl we knew in Dark Shores.
Teriana’s story is filled with inner conflict. She’s in love with her enemy and that has some obvious challenges. She’s done nothing but make hard choices since this series started and that doesn’t change in this book. She’s faced with more hard choices, but I was delighted to see her find some moments of happiness. I think what I love most about Teriana is that she always stays positive. Even when she’s carrying another human being to what could likely be her death. She suffers and struggles, but doesn’t let those challenges win.
Marcus is a tough character for me. I go back and forth between loving him and really disliking him (much like Teriana). He is the Legatus of the 37th legion. But these men are more than just his subordinates, they’re his family. Marcus also faces many challenges in this book. He must make hard choices regarding his men. He’s put in situations where he has to face his fears and others where his internal battle of what’s right versus what’s being ordered. I think I ultimately will love him. But I’ll still probably flip flop back and forth again during the next book.
Killian is my favorite. He’s a Marked warrior, so he’s strong, fast, skilled, and very smart when it comes to battle. But he faces a struggle of heart versus duty. (There is another parallel!) With Killian it’s different though because, as the reader, I know a secret that will change everything. Though once that secret is out, we didn’t get to see much after that. Killian’s dark path isn’t over yet, but he will forever fight to keep his loved ones and his kingdom safe. He’s loyal and full of love, compassionate and intelligent. He’s absolutely someone you’d want on your side.
Overall, I loved this book just as much as the first two. It was nice not to have to wonder as much about what was happening to the other couple because we were getting all of their points of view. I really liked that the chapters are short and still left me wanting more from each character. I also have to mention the world. We see three places, four if you include the ocean, in the first two books. But in this one, we find out more about other kingdoms and we get to see the mysterious Darin. We also get to see more Marked Ones that are marked by different Gods. I love the magic in this series and it was really interesting getting to see more of the abilities bestowed from other Gods. The only thing I didn’t like was the cliff hanger and that’s only because there isn’t even a cover for book four yet. I face the eternal bookworm struggle of suffering to wait for the next book in the series. I cannot recommend this series enough. It’s full of diverse character that you just can’t help falling in love with.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen

GoodReads Summary:
A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.
A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.
A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.
Dark Skies (Dark Shores, #2)Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. I was a little worried when I got approved for this one. I don’t remember all that much from the first book, (Dark Shores) aside from the fact that I totally loved it. So, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to jump right into this one, but I saw on GoodReads that the author made a statement that Dark Shores and Dark Skies can be read interchangeably. I thought that was super interesting, so I just jumped right into this one.
We follow Lydia and Killian. They each have their own perspectives, which I loved. Lydia is a bookish girl who loves to learn. But when her future husband attempts to murder her, she finds herself on the other side of the world, a world that she thought was a myth. I loved Lydia because she was determined and strong, even when she didn’t feel like those things. She made a plan and did her best to see it through or make the best of any situation. She was clever and loyal to her loved ones. She did her best to learn as much as she could, about the world she was in and about herself.
Killian is a Marked One. This means he was chosen by a specific god, the God of War, and given abilities. He’s disgraced after losing an important battle, so he becomes the personal guard of the princess. Which means he’s dragged into her plot to overthrow her father. Killian is a good man, though his reputation may not say so. I really liked him.
Overall, I loved this book. It made me want to immediately reread Dark Shores. I loved the world and the characters. There was action and romance and drama. I loved it all. The stakes were high and only got higher. I loved the way the story was concluded. The ending was satisfying enough that I was eager for more of the story, but not annoyed that everything wasn’t solved. I am beyond excited about the characters from this book and the first book to meet. This is a must-read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.