Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult
What a lovely surprise!
I hadn’t heard of Beyond a Darkened Shore until it was featured in Fairyloot’s April box themed “Whimsical Journeys”, and it couldn’t be more suitable because it was a whimsical, all-encompassing journey indeed! With an intricate blend of Norse and Celtic mythology, a rejected heroine with mystical powers and a Valkyrie endorsed hero on a quest to defeat flesh-eating monsters, Jessica Leake crafted a tale of war and love that deserves more attention.
“In all the world, there are only two strong enough. One born for it, the other through great sacrifice.”
In the beautiful land of Éirinn, Princess Ciara of Mide is an outcast; while her mind-controlling abilities make her a valuable asset in order to defeat raids from the Northmen, her clansmen treat her as a heretic, an abomination, a harbinger of death and suffering. Ciara’s only concern is to keep her sisters safe, to protect them and her kingdom from harm’s way at any cost. That’s why when the Morrigan, the Phantom Queen, leads Ciara to Leif, an arrogant and frustrating Northman raider, and asks her to spare him because only the two of them can save humankind from a savage race seeking world domination, Ciara will swallow her hatred and join forces with him. Along their journey, Ciara and Leif will encounter ruthless monarchs, demons, monsters, even the Wild Hunt, they will wake the fallen and challenge the gods. For their families, their people, and mankind.
“A war is coming. Will you fight it, Ciara of Mide?”
Beyond a Darkened Shore is a deeply atmospheric novel, infused with Irish and Nordic legends, beautiful landscapes and brutality. There are explicitly savage scenes that will make your stomach churn; creatures that escaped nightmares only to soak the earth in blood and gore; violent goddesses that demand great sacrifices; but there are also breathtaking locations, strong family relationships and a blooming, slow-burning romance that offer moments of longing, happiness and love.
“There is greatness in you, Ciara of Mide, beyond even what you have accomplished so far.”
The setting and lore of Beyond a Darkened Shore were truly magical. In a land recently christianized, Jessica Leake smartly weaves a web of prophecies and pagan ways without overburdening the story, but instead she enriches it with fascinating myths that always intrigued me. Ciara is a warrior princess in her journey of acceptance and self-discovery, a journey that shed prejudices that lasted generations and showed her that the world is not painted in black and white, that enemies can be humane and monsters can have feelings. Her scenes with Leif, this cocky, powerful, loyal Northman who stood by her and supported her, embraced both her virtues and her flaws and helped her conquer her fears, were immersed in passion and warmth, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
The only thing that felt a little off was the writing style. The first-person present-tense viewpoint was difficult to digest, especially during the first chapters, and there were times when the execution of this engaging concept was somehow immature, like some parts of the story were processed more than others.
Beyond a Darkened Shore is a captivating and bloody adventure, ideal for readers who enjoyed Sky in the Deep!