Hello humans! Today’s review is of Beyond a Darkened Shore, the book from the April Fairyloot box (Whimsical Journeys). I was utterly convinced the book would be Sky in the Deep so it was a nice surprise to receive a book that I hadn’t even heard of instead! I was, nonetheless, a little wary, leading to me taking months to get round to reading the book and the length of time it has taken for me to get the review out! This is a Celtic inspired story with a dose of fantasy and a fair amount of romance. How did it go?
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 thankfully 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.
I thought that Ciara was a really interesting character, being the heir to her father’s kingdom but also being a woman led to some interesting personal conflicts. I am always here for powerful female characters and Ciara is certainly someone to be reckoned with. She carries the story well and, though she makes some questionable choices, she is mostly a competent heroine. A lot of her character arc is centred around finding who she is and what her purpose is. I was pleased that this didn’t get entirely superseded by the romance (which I’ll get on to later). Another unique element of Ciara’s character is that she is an older sister. The younger siblings don’t feature greatly in the narrative but they are clear motivators for Ciara’s actions. This worked well, at least for me, as it helped me to understand why Ciara kept fighting to protect a people who didn’t treat her very well. There is the question of whether ‘chosen one’ storylines are overdone, and I’m not sure this one does anything particularly different with the idea barring the setting, but I enjoyed Ciara’s struggle with her powers and I thought it was written well.
I thought that the conflict between Éirinn and the Northmen was set up well. Largely this was because it was rooted in truth, (Éirinn being a name for Ireland). I have read so much Norse mythology and so many Viking inspired stories of late that I do get myself tied up in knots over what is mythology, what is fantasy, and what is historical. But this book felt well-researched for the most part. I thought that the exploration of how the folklore of both peoples could come together and make sense within one universe.
I said I would talk about the romance, and that time is now. This is, obviously, a hate-to-love romance and I think anyone who has read their share of YA can guess how everything comes to pass. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I know people often like romances like this. Personally, I wasn’t overly fussed, the writing wasn’t particularly swoon-worthy (in my opinion) but nor was it cringy as these things can sometimes be. Leif is a good character as romantic interests/Vikings go, but I don’t have much more to say on this.
This book does have magic in it, and that’s the part that really captured my attention. Yes, the ‘I have magical powers and no-one else does and that scares people’ trope has been done many a time, but I am still reading these books in the hope that my own powers will manifest any day now. As I’ve said, I thought that the way in which Ciara gradually learned about the potential of her powers and how they eventually got used was incredibly well done. It’s not a particularly intricate or detailed magic system, we’re not talking pages of information, but it is interesting how the origin of the powers is explained.
I wouldn’t say that this book blew my mind, but it was a fun read and definitely an interesting setting to explore. If you’re looking for something Celtic or Viking-esque I would definitely recommend this!
My rating: 4/5 stars
All opinions are my own.
What say you?