Title: Beyond a Darkened Shore
Author: Jessica Leake
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
As soon as I finished King’s Cage, I dived into Beyond a Darkened Shore, not wanting to return the book before I’d had a chance to read it. I found it through a recommendation list, and it’d been sitting in my library stack for a while, drawing the eye with its dark, enticing cover. But even better were its contents. A historical fantasy tale rife with romance, action, and Norse and Celtic mythology, Leake weaves an enthralling, enchanting tale, dark and bloody and beautiful, meticulously researched and finely wrought. This could be one of my favorite books of 2018, if not for the formulaic romance. I like the enemies to lovers trope as much as the next girl, but the romance, at first, seemed like instalove, and it kind of turned me off. Nonetheless, what a fantastic young adult debut! I’ll be on the lookout for what she comes out with next!
Ciara is the eldest princess and heir to the kingdom of Mide, feared by her people—including her own family members—for her power to control the minds of her enemies. When the Northmen try to raid her father’s keep while her family members are away, Ciara apprehends one of her enemies, and finds, much to her surprise, that he can resist her. When a shocking and terrible twist of fate results in her being exiled from her own kingdom, she finds that she must turned to her most hated enemy for help. On their journey, the two must learn to trust each other, for the end of the world is coming, and there are giants, gods and goddesses, and ancient creatures are ushering it in. And maybe, just maybe, trust can turn into something much deeper…
Despite the relationship that sprung up almost instantly between the two main characters—one a fierce Celtic warrior with frightening, misunderstood powers that she can barely control, and her captive Norseman who has his own secrets to hide—I really liked this book. I’m a sucker for all things mythology related, and I loved how the prose was peppered with fragments of both cultures. (Bonus points for the sweet glossary in the back of the book!) The pacing was breakneck, and even though the romance seemed a little bit too well knit for me, Ciara’s tense narration grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go, even after the final page. I was immediately drawn into her dangerous world, full of magic, political intrigue, gods and goddesses, religious upheaval, and dark forces. I liked the way that despite Christianity taking over Ireland during that period, Leake brought in parts of the older cultures. I really enjoyed the romance, but I wish it had taken a little longer to actually bloom; I can’t stand when couples look at each other a handful of times and get heart-eyes, it just doesn’t make sense. I really enjoyed Leif and the way his culture was explained as the book went on. And that ending—it was so fulfilling and painful, all at once! Despite some little quibbles, I really liked Jessica Leake’s young adult debut, and I’m looking forward to more from her. A fantastic debut novel! The bottom line: A debut packed with almost everything I love in a historical fiction novel, I loved Beyond a Darkened Shore, and I can’t wait to see what’s next from this promising young author! Next on deck: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore!