‘Beyond A Darkened Shore’ by Jessica Leake is unbelievably good.
Synopsis: Ciara is a warrior princess, heir to the throne of Mide, but she is shunned from her clansmen for possessing powers of darkness. During a battle against the forever raiding Northmen, a crow warns Ciara not to kill their leader. After the battle, she experiences visions of a future so bleak, she sets out on a quest… with the Northman she saved, for he is to be her partner. Can Ciara put aside their differences to stop the end of the world as they know it?
Ciara is a phenomenal character. She’s a warrior princess that instills fear into the hearts of her own men due to the unearthly powers she was born with. I found her an extremely likeable MC and I enjoyed watching her struggle with her feelings towards Leif. I saw the truth of her powers from a mile away and despite the predictability of it, I was still enthralled by the storytelling that I felt the force of the blow as if I was Ciara. She’s a proud, independent woman and none of her actions disappointed me. I was rooting for her.
Leif was hilarious. Some of his lines are timed so well that I barked with laughter frequently. He’s got such a swagger about him but also this goofiness with Ciara that is utterly endearing. I loved his words and how he respected Ciara’s wishes on several matters that he didn’t necessarily agree with. Basically, he is a warrior gentleman with a fiercely loyal heart. He is the man you would want on such a dangerous quest because you know he would have your back no matter what. Partner goals here.
We see two countries, the home of Ciara, Éirinn, and the home of Leif somewhere north. Both have different religious beliefs and very different rules that they live by. I would be hard pressed to say which country I prefer as they both sound stunning but I would probably lean towards Éirinn, purely for the mythology. I had heard of Morrigan in previous novels but only ever in passing or as a sorceress so I was glad to have a different perspective to this icon.
Religion is something that is very central to the plot and it went hand in hand with the breadth of monsters that Ciara and Leif met. Sometimes I found the views on the different religions puzzling; I couldn’t make sense of Ciara’s Christianity beliefs after she knew the Morrigan was real. Why wouldn’t you commit to the goddess who helped you? Perhaps there was something I missed that could explain it. There were many other gods/goddesses that were present in the book. At times I had a stupid ass grin on my face because I was HAPPILY drowning in all the awesomeness. It makes me want to go to the library and check out several books on both Celtic and Norse mythology.
I fell in love with this book. I first heard about it last year on Twitter and I’ve been eagerly waiting for it since. Almost as soon as I started, I knew I was going to fall hard for it. There’s such a wide range of topics in this book and yes, it’s very tropey but I felt like it was handled very carefully and everything was well planned. No part of this book felt forced and it was the fluidity of the plot, as well as the amazing characters that stole my heart. One of the best standalone novels I have had the pleasure to read.
“Demon, they called me in their minds. Changeling. Cursed.”
I received this in Fairyloot’s April ‘Whimsical Journeys’ box.
You can get it here