I was super fortunate to have the opportunity to read an eARC of this book, courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for a fair review.
I have long adored Danielle’s writing, ever since I first stumbled across Stolen Songbird while browsing eBooks on my Kindle. I have seen a good amount of hype around it on Instagram, and it gets immediate love for having a stunning cover! Then we have the fact that it pulls some inspiration from the Roman Empire, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist!
I will do my best to keep this review spoiler free, especially since the book isn’t even out yet!
A PIRATE WITH A WILL OF IRON
Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense, a ship beholden to the Goddess of the Seas. Her people are born of the waves, and they alone know how to cross the impassable oceans between East and West.
A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET
Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his only family, and even they don’t know the secret he’s been hiding since childhood.
A DANGEROUS QUEST
When a power-hungry ruler captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they help him conquer the unknown West, the two are forced into an unlikely–and unwilling– alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.
I loved this book from page 1, and didn’t want it to end! Teriana was awesome and sassy and funny and the perfect female MC. I love how quippy she is, and I laughed out loud multiple times during this book (always good). I also had some serious feels, and few moments where my heart ached a bit. Teriana holds up as a badass MC not because she possesses any “wonderous skills”, but because she is tough and well trained and extremely loyal to her people.
Marcus is *sigh*. Totally swoon-worthy, honorable, admirable, and the perfect counter to Teriana. His back story has its fair share of tragedy, but he comports himself with honor and has justifiably earned the loyalty of his troops. He is supposed to be the bad guy, at least as far as Teriana is concerned, but it is easy to see he is trying to do the best he can given their circumstances, and it shows.
As for the pair of them as a couple, I ship it (pun intended). I have so much love for them, and was rooting for them the whole time, despite the star-crossed aspect. Marcus seems to see Teriana as a whole person, appreciating her talents and not being offended or sulky in instances where she knows more than him. Meanwhile, Teriana is willing to look past his “enemy” status and see him (and his men) as a person and not just a soldier. This romance was certainly slow-burn, but gave us just enough to get hooked. We left off with a pretty good cliffhanger, and I am anxious to see how things progress. I have some hopes for what will happen, but I will avoid voicing them lest I spoil anything!
I also super enjoyed the world Danielle built here. The Celendor Empire was well fleshed out and easy to envision, with its Roman inspiration. The Dark Shores still remain mostly a mystery, but I am really okay with this! There was something refreshing about learning the world right along with the characters, and knowing no more than they did. They’re there to explore and (probably) conquer, so it stands to reason we won’t see everything at once. It was super interesting to see how the army operated, how they built their outposts and established trade and used their skills. It was as eye-opening for me as I am sure it was for Teriana, and it really hit home how well trained these soldiers are.
The magical/fantasy aspect of this book was used lightly and to very great effect, in my opinion. Largely based in the religion of the Maarin and the natives of the Dark Shores, people are occasionally gifted by one of the seven gods or goddesses with enhanced abilities. We don’t see a ton of this, but we do meet Teriana’s crew mate, who has some sort of water ability that enables him to stay underwater for long periods of time and swim long distances with ease. We also find healers with the ability to heal with their power, and – the counter – those who are gifted by the death god and can drain life with a mere touch. The world is also riddled with these crazy portals that allow for instant travel over vast distances. SO cool.
Many of the other reviews give flack for the lack of piracy, apparently an expectation set by Teriana being called a pirate in the summary. I will say, this is not a pirate book. Pirate is more Teriana’s profession (although I would call her more a sea-faring trader or possible privateer) than it is a driving plot point. In fact, very little of the book is spent on or around her ship, so do not go into this expecting a swashbuckling adventure in the vein of Daughter of the Pirate King or To Kill a Kingdom. Just know it will be amazing, and content yourself with that.
In conclusion, this book was awesome and hit all of my must-haves: awesome characters, cool worlds, an interesting magic system, and enough romance to give me the feels! You will not want to miss out on this one! Dark Shores releases on May 7th and you can pre-order your copy here!