Dark Shores (Dark Shores #1) by Danielle L. Jensen

Dark ShoresDark Shores is a story about two people, both with secrets, brought together in an unlikely alliance in order to protect the people they love.

I confess that I got off to a shaky start with this one.  Ultimately it redeemed itself and was an entertaining read but it was touch and go there for a while.

Dark Shores brings to us a world divided into East and West.  The Celendor Empire in the East is heavily inspired by Ancient Rome, particularly it’s desire to conquer and become rich on the spoils.  It remains oblivious to the West however and particularly to the ways to reach it’s shores, until that secret is spilled in a moment of unguarded naivety.

The tale is told from two POVs.  Teriana is a young woman of the seas.  Her mother is captain of the Quincense that regularly travels between East and West bearing goods for trade.  Teriana is one of the Maarin.  The Maarin are devoted to their Gods and indeed protected by them for keeping the secrets that prevent the ambitious war mongering East from discovering the rich plunder on the soils of the West.

Marcus is the commander of the infamous 37th legion.  A legion that is well known for their ruthless tactics in conquering the East.  Marcus has something of a history with his own family, who gave him up as a tithe to the Empire, but all isn’t quite as simple as it may at first seem – the family are keeping a secret that could lead to their downfall and the problem with secrets is they have a way of coming out of the woodwork.

I’m going to start this review with why I struggled at the start.  Firstly, as the book began I found Teriana a little annoying – simply put she came across as very immature which made it difficult to buy into her being the Second Mate on board a ship particularly when her actions serve to put everyone and everything she knows in danger.  On top of that the initial chapters felt too modern – Teriana and her friend acted like teenagers from the modern era – not one that is akin to a civilisation from many many moons ago.  Okay, I don’t expect the language to be all ‘ye olde worlde’ but I think there has to be some sort of nod to the fact that this isn’t a modern world and attitudes might not be quite as they are today.  The other area that I took issue with was the Celandon empire, trading on a regular and quite long standing basis with seafarers from the West, and yet never having turned their attention in that direction – until a certain secret is spilled.  In fairness, the reasoning behind why the Celandon Empire couldn’t conquer the West becomes more apparent as the story unfolds so I advise patience on that front.

I’m not going to give too much more away about the plot other than to say that Teriana and Marcus are thrown together and in spite of their mutual distrust have to learn to rely on each other if they’re to succeed in keeping the people they love alive and, after a shaky start, I found myself enjoying the story more than I’d expected.

In fact I think that I enjoyed the story more once the protagonists left the shores of Celandon behind.  I enjoyed the adventures at sea, the choppy waters and the dangers that had to be faced in order to find the route to the East.  I enjoyed the way the Gods play into the story with their meddling and I enjoyed discovering more about the West.   I thought that what was really well done here was that although the Celandon’s are trying to conquer in some respects they didn’t really come across as the baddies.  I liked the way the legion comes into their own displaying their discipline, tactics and loyalty, setting up boundaries and establishing a strong foothold.

Now, you may be able to see a romance in the offing between our two main characters and that is the case.  Fortunately this isn’t rushed and in fact when the two do eventually give in to their own feelings they still have a good deal of trust issues to work through.  I liked that they didn’t overnight forget their bad history.

Overall this was a fun read that I found more enjoyable than I expected to following the opening chapters.  I would advise that if you’re expecting a world of really rich world building based on history then this probably isn’t the read for you but if you’re in the market for an adventure and a budding romance then this could be just what you’re looking for.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

Warrior Witch by Danielle L Jensen

Warrior WitchWarrior Witch by Danielle L Jensen is the final instalment from The Malediction Trilogy that brought to us Stolen Songbird and Hidden Huntress.  If you haven’t picked up these books yet please be aware that the following review will contain spoilers.

I must confess from the outset that I had mixed feelings about Warrior Witch and I’ve taken a little longer than normal to reflect before writing this review.  Now, let me be clear by saying that I didn’t dislike this book but by the same token I didn’t love it either, I am however pleased that I finished the series.  I think this was always going to be a story that would be difficult to conclude.  Sometimes you’re so caught up in a story that you can’t see the wood for the trees even though deep down, at the back of your mind, you have concerns about how it could possibly conclude satisfactorily.  I think the Malediction Trilogy is one of those series.  That probably sounds like a massive spoiler but please trust me when I say it really isn’t!

To give a recap.   The Malediction Trilogy brings to us a world of magic, fae and trolls.  The trolls in this world have previously been cursed and entombed beneath a mountain and for years have struggled with a prophecy to bring about their release.  Finally a human girl, as prophesied, is taken from her world and brought into the world of the trolls.  Cecile, the human in question, is bound to the Prince of the trolls (Tristan) and it looks like the prophecy may about to become true.  At first Cecile and Tristan dislike each other very much, there is no trust between the two and no instalove you may be pleased to hear.  Cecile has been torn from her home, friends and family and brought into a dangerous and sometimes violent world full of trolls and magic.  Tristan has his own agenda going on and is guarded and wary with Cecile.  Of course, the two eventually begin to form an attachment and so ensues a love story and awakening of understanding.  In book two the pair are separated for the majority of the book when Cecile returns to her own world to try to discover the nature of the curse and how it can be reversed.  At the end of the Hidden Huntress Cecile finally succeeds in freeing the trolls and whilst I admit that I had a few issues with this book and didn’t enjoy it as much as the first the concluding chapter where the trolls and their magical force was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world certainly promised an exciting finale.

In Warrior Witch there is a lot going on and in fact that aspect to the story kept me reading at quite a fast pace.  The action pretty much never stops and there are so many twists and turns that trying to predict anybody’s next move is virtually impossible.

On top of this we have a much greater involvement from the fae, which wasn’t a really big surprise but a happy inclusion nonetheless.  The Summer and Winter Courts have issues of their own taking place and in fact the politics of the troll world pretty much pale into insignificance by comparison.

In terms of characters we get to revisit a number of the old favourites such as Marc and the twins and I thought in particular Sabine played a really good role in this instalment and I found myself liking her more and more.  Which brings me to Tristan and Cecile who, I couldn’t help feeling fell a little bit short of the mark.  I suppose having achieved what they set out to do they both then become overwhelmed with the enormity of what they’ve actually unleashed and what it really meant for everyone else.  I guess that both of them have naivety in their corner, coupled with idealism and romantic notions.  All of those you could argue can quite often lead to a lack of foresight and also a certain degree of selfishness.  Basically, Tristan in seeking a fairer world, and Ceclie in seeking a world with Tristan,  pretty much brought about a situation that led to death and destruction for a lot of humans when the trolls and their magic were released. In fairness not all the trolls are dangerous to humans but unfortunately those with the real power are and they very much see humans as pawns in their political games.

Criticisms.  Well, I struggled a little bit with liking Cecile in this instalment.  She has a tendency to flounce off all the time and whilst I’d like to think of her actions as showing independence and a desire to take action the majority of the time she comes across as thoughtless or immature and ends up making others worry about her safety – usually putting them in danger as a result.  Tristan and Cecile spend very little time together in the book and although I didn’t particularly feel that this was a problem, because there was a lot going on, I didn’t really feel a connection between them, or at least I struggled to believe in their relationship or feelings for each other.  It just felt colder somehow.   On top of this I must admit that I thought their voices sounded very similar and I sometimes almost lost track of whether I was reading from Cecile or Tristan’s point of view until an aspect in the story would bring me up short.

In terms of positives.  Well, the story is fast moving, there is plenty of action and no shortage of intrigue and although the ending may not be for everyone I think the author makes a great effort to find a conclusion to the conundrum that Cecile and Tristan’s relationship creates even though that ending is bittersweet.

To be honest I loved the first book in the series for it’s originality and also for the portrayal of the trolls and their world.  The second book was less enjoyable for me and I put that down to more time spent in Cecile’s world which simply wasn’t as captivating as the troll’s.  I don’t want to be unfair to the author – I think this is an intriguing story I’ve enjoyed reading it and I’m pleased to have completed the series.  I also have to admit that I’m not really the target audience for this book, it has a definite YA feel and I think some of the issues I had simply come down to that fact.

I received a copy of Warrior Witch courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

This review first appeared on the Speculative Herald.

Waiting on Wednesday: Warrior Witch (The Malediction Trilogy #3) by Danielle L Jensen

74757-new2bwow“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week I’m featuring Danielle L Jensen’s Warrior Witch, the third book in the Malediction Trilogy (due May 2016):

warrior witch.jpgThe thrilling conclusion to the breakout Malediction Trilogy by Goodreads Choice finalist Danielle L. Jensen.

Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.

As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.

But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

Hidden Huntress by Danielle L Jensen (No.2 of the Malediction Trilogy)

Hidden Huntress is the second instalment in the Malediction Trilogy by Danielle Jensen, following on from Stolen Songbird.  (Beware of spoilers below).

At the start of the story Cecile is now living with her mother in Trianon, performing opera each night on the stage.  She has recovered from her injuries and is intent on her search to find the witch that cursed the trolls (and her husband Tristan) to live beneath a mountain for the rest of eternity.  However, although she may have escaped Trollus the King beneath the mountain has a long reach and he’s still able to contact Cecile.  Unfortunately, having agreed to see the King, in the hopes of seeing Tristan, Cecile makes a promise to find Anushka and do all within her power to help free the trolls.  Little does she realise that the King will now be able to drive her almost to the brink of insanity in order to fulfil her promise.

Hidden Huntress has a very different feel from the first.  The story focuses much more on Cecile and although we spend some time in the fascinating world of the trolls most of the story takes place in Trianon where Cecile struggles to uncover anything in relation to the long lived witch who cursed the trolls.  Her search is going to turn her towards the dark arts of magic and will eventually place her in great danger as it becomes clear that time is running out.

I can’t deny that I have slightly mixed feelings for this book and in fact have left my review for a few days whilst the dust settles. To a certain extent I think this is a fairly solid second instalment, it’s well written and has a dramatic finale.  However, on the other hand, I felt like this could have been somewhat shorter.  I definitely experienced moments where I felt the story dragged and on top of that I found myself increasingly irritated by the fact that the outcome was so obvious.  I felt like I was at a pantomime shouting to the character on stage ‘he’s behind you’.  And yet the characters in the story remained totally oblivious.  Okay, I suppose once they’d gone down a certain track their minds were made up but for me personally I never had any doubt about which direction the story was going in.  Should that bother me – maybe not.  Sometimes the story isn’t all about the mystery or the twist at the end but in this particular case I felt like the ending was supposed to be something of a shock – and so that felt like a little bit of a let down.

In this story we have Cecile and Tristan narrating.  I enjoyed that aspect very much and in particular the fact that although they share a special bond they can still misunderstand each other to such a large extent that they sometimes seem to be at cross purposes.  I like the character Tristan.  He tries much harder in this book to be conciliatory and offer olive branches to those who feel he betrayed their cause in book No.1.  He is used quite appallingly by his father and yet in spite of this I feel like there’s something about the King that we haven’t quite yet discovered.  That aside Tristan manages a fair amount of sneaking about and trickery.

In terms of Cecile.  I don’t dislike her as a character but do find her a little bit annoying in some respects.  It just feels that in spite of her efforts she never really moves the story forward a great deal.  Well until the last third of the book – and even then she makes some questionable decisions.  Strangely and conversely I think Cecile’s mother makes an excellent character as the strict mother figure.

On the whole I enjoyed No.2.  I did think it suffered a little with the pacing and also with the predictability but I have to admit it’s an excellent set up for what promises to be a revealing conclusion.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.