Book Review: Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake

Title: Beyond A Darkened Shore
Author: Jessica Leake
Series: None
Published: 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 435
From: Barnes and Noble
Rating: 7/10

Jessica Leake is an author who really knows how to tell a story. Her debut novel, Beyond A Darkened Shore, was proof of that. This book, which follows Ciara from her homeland of a fantasy-inspired Ireland to the shores of a similarly fantasized Norway, to protect her family, despite the way she has been treated by some of those family members, has some amazing storytelling that pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

Ciara’s story begins when she is part of her father’s army and they are fighting Viking raiders who have stormed their shores. She has the ability to possess another person or being and make them do what she wants, and for this she is cast out and shunned. But she discovers a young man whose mind she is unable to penetrate. It is from there she makes a lot of decisions to protect her home and her two younger sisters, and befriends the young Viking, all while battling an evil that is spreading across both his homeland and hers.

I absolutely loved Ciara as a character. She was badass, knew how to wield a weapon, and she had the fiercest devotion to her sisters. She is who she is, without being forced into a feminine or masculine role. Of course, her story is also one we have seen quite often anymore, one where she is different and misunderstood and has an unheard of power, so she is an outcast in her own community. But I get it. It comes with her character. It is part of the story and it allows her to grow and develop and become the person she is supposed to be.

Also, the worldbuilding was really well done. I loved seeing more than just Ciara’s homeland when they sail across the ocean to the Viking homeland, and I enjoyed that we actually got to see various towns and communities within those lands. For example, Ciara’s castle home was small, and then they traveled to the Irish town of Dublin, which is a huge city in comparison, and it was so fun seeing what a city of that size could have been like in the medieval past.

The thing I wasn’t a huge fan of, and I have noticed it happens a lot in YA novels for one reason or another, is the need for continuing plot points. I feel like sometimes a plot point is written, and we move on quite quickly to the next one. Sometimes, I wonder if these points were fleshed out a little bit more, would we still need as many? The story would make it where it needed to go without them, and readers would still have such a lush world to breathe in. But that’s just a personal preference I think. It detracted from the story a bit for me, but I know that doesn’t mean it would for the next reader.

Overall, I absolutely loved this marriage of Irish and Norse mythology and culture, in such a unique and vibrant way. It really made me want to visit Ireland again, and make a trip to Norway for the first time! I think Leake did a lovely job with this novel, and I cannot wait to see what she does with her second book.

Beyond a Darkened Shore can be found in brick and mortar bookstores, as well as online. For OMG Books and More Books’ review, click here.

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