Review: Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake

Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake 
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Vikings meets Frostblood in this romantic historical fantasy stand-alone from 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 was one of my most anticipated releases of April. Anything described as "Vikings meets Frostblood" automatically gains my attention, and I still can't get over how gorgeous the cover is. Now that I've read the book, I can say it fits the story perfectly. 

So did Beyond a Darkened Shore live up to my expectations? Unfortunately, the answer to this is somewhere between yes and no. Some parts of this book, especially the beginning, I downright loved; however, as the story progressed and the characters developed, I became less and less enchanted with the overall picture. 

The beginning of this story is honestly the best part. We're quickly thrown into action, as enemy troops are slowly approaching Ciara's kingdom. Ciara is quick to first get her sisters to safety and then her men ready for battle. The tensions are high, and I was on the edge of my seat, dying to know what would happen next. Would Ciara's sisters be okay? What did the incoming troops hope to accomplish? What exactly was Ciara's power and how was the crow involved? Additionally, it's easy to get a feel for Ciara's character in this scene. You can feel her fear - fear for her sisters, mother, father, and men - as well as her determination and ferocity. She loves her kingdom, and nothing, no army or outer force, will take it away from her. As the battle develops, it sets important events into motion - Ciara's first encounter with Leif and the omen she receives from the crow. 

After this scene, I couldn't wait to see what would come next, and for a while, I was relatively satisfied with everything. Ciara continued to be a character that was easy to like as well as root for. I gave her props for standing up for what she believed in, no matter the cost. The scene with her father, in particular, was a strong one. I also enjoyed the mythology included. It's what originally attracted me to this story, and I thought Jessica did a decent job of expanding upon it. 

But then the story fizzled out...

One of the biggest problems with Beyond a Darkened Shore was the pacing. As I've mentioned before, it started off bang, but then it slowed down considerably. I was okay with this at first. I figured some backstory and character development had to be established, but then the pace never picked up. The story continued to drag, and I became less and less invested. I wanted excitement, thrill, something to keep me glued to the page, but the energy associated with the first part never seemed to come back. It was underwhelming and even disappointing. 

The other problem I had involved Leif and Ciara's relationship. When the story first began I was willing to overlook the predictability of it - enemies that become something more and must also save the world together - but I couldn't overlook the fact that I felt that Leif served no real purpose but to be Ciara's right-hand man. I never could get a good sense of Leif. I couldn't get a feel for his personality, his wants and desires, and the book suffered because of it. I also didn't feel a true chemistry between Ciara and him. Yes, on the surface they were similar, but it never dove deeper than that, in my opinion. At the end of the day, how could I be invested in a bond and a relationship when I felt that I barely knew the male lead? Plus, I didn't like how this relationship affected Ciara's personality. She went from being this strong, fearless leader to someone who over thought everything and jumped to conclusions. 

Overall, Beyond a Darkened Shore is a solid 3-star read. The premise here is fantastic, the opening even better, but the middle and end are what turn this story from something special to something that's hard to get through. 

3 stars!! 


  1. I had a hard time sticking with this one and I ended up setting it aside. I think it might be for the best. I didn't make it to the romance but I'd probably have been super disappointed so that's okay. I'm sorry you didn't love this one, Lauren! I hope your next read is better!

    Have a lovely weekend. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  2. That covering is STUNNING and would definitely make me want to pick this book up! On the other hand your review has turned me the opposite way, ISN'T THAT THE WORST WHEN A HIGHLY ANTICIPATED DOESN'T MEET YOUR EXPECTATIONS!? I am so sorry that happened to you! I've seen a lot a buzz about this book, people excited to read, but not many reviews--thank you for letting us know what was up!


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