Review of Dark Skies by Danielle L Jensen

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.
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.
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 Shores was one of my stand out books of 2019 so it’s no surprise that I really enjoyed Dark Skies too! Dark Skies is a parallel of events to Dark Shores, whilst that was Terianna’s story this one is focused on Lydia who was left behind in Celendor. The starting point is the same in both books and we have a cross over of events to give context, however this doesn’t mean that the story telling feels lazy or a rehash of the other book. On the contrary, there are a couple of points of reference but because of the first person perspective we get the polar opposite viewpoint which really helps to round out the story. A nice touch is that it doesn’t matter at all if you’ve not read Dark Shores the two work independently of one another so it’s your choice which you want to read first.

Dark Skies, does however feel much darker in tone and also bleaker. We find ourselves on the Western Shores far earlier this time around, and Killian (our other POV) as a native is deeply embroiled already in a religious battle propped up by political plots. Lydia falls straight into the middle of it all.  Mudamora feels very much like a traditional fantasy world, stepping away from the Roman inspired Celendor and high sea’s adventure of book 1. There is a wonderful magic system tied in with their religion, those who are touched by the Gods are given wonderful powers, to heal, grow crops or fight bravely, but where more traditional fantasy reveres these mage’s, Dark Skies places them almost into slavery, farming them for the abilities for their perceived greater good, kind of like the poor podlings in The Dark Crystal. There are plenty of dark and ominous creatures and foes that have led to Mudamora being the town in hiding that it is, creatures of nightmares stalking the skies and lending themselves to some of the more exciting set pieces. The author paints a poverty stricken world well and with empathy, the deep desperation of the hungry tells the reader all we need to know in one small yet hugely brutal and harrowing scene – there are no high seas shenanigans to be had here.  What we do have though are plenty of characters filled with a fierce fortitude and bravery, Lydia’s arc was fantastic and I loved how she was able to grow in a way that Terianna wasn’t able to given that she started as more of a mouse like character, she was an almost blank slate which led to a huge amount of scope and a tantalising look at her back story, which honestly I felt could have been opened up a little bit more.

The battles are phenomenal, Jensen really captures the essence of the fight by look more introspectively at the thoughts and feelings of those involved with the fight over heavy sword clashes – the two finding a perfect balance in a way that completely drew me into the pages. There is a big but coming however.  The story felt long and parts dragged at times, without the forward motion that Dark Shores had, the enclosure of the city on lock down led for few opportunities outside of the bleakness of the city streets and honestly it felt hard going because of it. There is also one plot point about Lydia which bugged me massively but as it’s a huge spoiler I will leave it at that, but if anyone else has had the opportunity to read it I would love to discuss it! Dark Shores is definitely my more favoured of the two, but the characters are still phenomenal and I’m sure that there will be pretty special things coming from the final book.




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