Friday, April 13, 2018

ARC #Review - Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Galley, 448 pages
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Edelweiss/Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Historical

Vikings meets Frostblood in this romantic, historical fantasy stand-alone from debut young adult author Jessica Leake.

The ancient land of Éirinn is mired in war. Ciara, princess of Mide, has never known a time when Éirinn’s kingdoms were not battling for power, or Northmen were not plundering their shores.

The people of Mide have always been safe because of Ciara’s unearthly ability to control her enemies’ minds and actions. But lately a mysterious crow has been appearing to Ciara, whispering warnings of an even darker threat. Although her clansmen dismiss her visions as pagan nonsense, Ciara fears this coming evil will destroy not just Éirinn but the entire world.

Then the crow leads Ciara to Leif, a young Northman leader. Leif should be Ciara’s enemy, but when Ciara discovers that he, too, shares her prophetic visions, she knows he’s something more. Leif is mounting an impressive army, and with Ciara’s strength in battle, the two might have a chance to save their world.

With evil rising around them, they’ll do what it takes to defend the land they love…even if it means making the greatest sacrifice of all.

Beyond a Darkened Shore is the standalone debut young adult novel by author Jessica Leake. Beyond a Darkened Shore draws inspiration from both Celtic and Norse mythology, and explores a world we don’t often see in fantasy. The Kingdom of Mide, land of Éirinn’s is where this story takes place. If you want to go ahead and compare the world to Ireland circa 1035 AD, go for it. I sure did. Princess Ciara Leannan is the Kingdom of Mide's heir and the story's protagonist. 

She's a warrior princess who walks the walk, and has some twisted ability to get inside the head of her enemies and control them. Abilities which have made her the black sheep of not only her family, but the village in which they live in as well. They call her evil and a changeling. Ciara and her people, the Celts, have been under constant attack from the Northmen aka Norsemen. With her father the King away, Ciara is responsible for protecting the Kingdom. Strangely enough, Ciara is pulled into a dream where she is told that she must trust and rely on her enemy to defeat the dangerous things that are heading to destroy

Urged not to kill the leader of a roving band of northmen by a mysterious voice and the arrival of a black crow, Ciara instead captures him. "There will come a day, when your own blood will join forces with your enemy." Leif Olafson is a northmen aka norsemen who is supposed to find an ally, preferably a badass warrior, who can help him defeat his people's enemies the Jotan. He is also one of the few people Ciara cannot control with her abilities. Leif also carries a secret with him. A secret that gives him the ability to defeat his enemies, but with a cost. 

After losing to Ciara, the two form an uneasy alliance. An alliance that will see Ciara learn about her own skills, abilities, and her connection to a dark goddess of death which has made her an outcast among her people. An alliance that will see Ciara trust Leif way more than her own people. Ok, look, I can't hold this back any longer. Have you ever watched the movie Return of the King? Do you remember a particular scene in which Aragorn, Legolas, & Gimli searches for an undead army that is so powerful that it is unstoppable? Let's just say Leake must be a huge fan. I absolutely loved the scene in this story. It also gives readers an idea how powerful Ciara really is, and who she gets her powers from.

If you like a story with a forbidden slow burn romance, you have it. If you like a story with wonderfully creative twists mixing Celtic and Norse mythology together, you have it. If you don't like waiting for the next installment to come out, you have it. This is a standalone. If you love having Celtic and Norse Gods and Goddess featured throughout the book, you definitely get your fill. I am a huge fan of mixed mythologies so I will be more lenient with my ratings that perhaps others. I loved Ciara and Morrigan, then you toss in Jotnar, Odin, Valkyries, and Valhalla, and you have me in your clutches.

Jessica’s next title, which will be another stand-alone fantasy inspired by mythology, is on Harper Collins Winter ’19 list.

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