Summary: A siege is laid against the last resistance to the Senate’s rule. As the battle rages, a commander, a soldier, and a rebel will decide how far they are willing to go for victory. THE COMMANDER Marcus is forced to choose between destroying the rebel forces and liberating his legion. He must face the true cost of being a leader. And an oppressor. THE SOLDIER Agrippa sets his sights on glory to fill the deepening void within him. He discovers that the price of fame might not just be paid in blood, it might be paid by his heart. THE REBEL Silvara joins the rebel forces to fight against the legions who would see her family dead. While she dreams of being a warrior, she finds her sharpest weapon is seduction. But to defeat the Empire, she’ll have to betray the young man who now has her heart. DEFIANCE IS TREASON. TREASON IS DEATH. Inspired by the harsh world of ancient Rome, readers are obsessed with this martial tale of fiery romance, friendship, and enmity. Told from three points of view, Tarnished Empire is filled with twists you’ll never see coming but will keep you turning the pages all night. Tarnished Empire is set in the world of Danielle L. Jensen’s Dark Shores. But readers new to the world can begin here.
Review: Tarnished Empire is a prequel to my beloved Dark Shores series. This follows Marcus, who we meet in the first book and Agrippa who I won’t get into specifics about. I enjoyed this book. It’s written in the Danielle Jensen fashion where the story is full of action and excitement, but there’s an emotional upheaval and resolution to the story as well. We get all of those things in this book. I was happy to read this and get new content set in one of my favorite worlds. I don’t know that it added all that much extra to the overall story, but I had fun while reading it and I definitely enjoyed my time spend reading.
Summary: A queen now in exile as a traitor, Lara has watched Ithicana be conquered by her own father, helpless to do anything to stop the destruction. But when she learns her husband, Aren, has been captured in battle, Lara knows there is only one reason her father is keeping him alive: as bait for his traitorous daughter. And it is bait she fully intends to take. Risking her life to the Tempest Seas, Lara returns to Ithicana with a plan not only to free its king, but for liberating the Bridge Kingdom from her father’s clutches using his own weapons: the sisters whose lives she spared. But not only is the palace inescapable, there are more players in the game than Lara ever realized, enemies and allies switching sides in the fight for crowns, kingdoms, and bridges. But her greatest adversary of all might be the very man she’s trying to free – the husband she betrayed. With everything she loves in jeopardy, Lara must decide who – and what – she is fighting for: her kingdom, her husband, or herself.
Review: I really enjoyed The Bridge Kingdom, but holy shit I absolutely loved The Traitor Queen. This book starts off right where The Bridge Kingdom ended, which I was happy about. I don’t love when books skip a bunch of time and start six months after the end of the first book. We’re immediately thrown back into the world, and this is a world at war. Lara’s father had invaded and taken over the Bridge. He’s holding Aren captive and even though Aren has sworn to kill Lara if he ever sees her again, she’s determined to find a way to rescue him. From there, the story unfolds and chaos ensues. Lara is still pretty similar to the cunning and ruthless main character that I loved from the first book. But with the growth that she had from learning of her father’s lies and deception, she’s feeling guilt and a need for penance. I thought this was really interesting for her character because it wasn’t how we knew her to act in the first book. Also, we really get to see her fight and use the skills that she’d been trained in for most of her life and I absolutely loved seeing that. Aren is dealing with an internal struggle that’s ironically similar to Lara’s from the first book. He loves Lara, but she’s now known as the Traitor Queen, so they cannot be together. Despite knowing all this, he can’t stop loving her and he can’t seem to let her go. I still liked Aren in this book. He was a bit colder, but understandably so since he’d been betrayed after opening the secrets of his kingdom to his wife. I really enjoyed his personal struggle of not being able to let Lara go, even though his people would likely never accept her. I didn’t have the same issue of predictability with The Traitor Queen that I did for the first book. As I predicted, there were lots of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. The storyline wasn’t nearly as easy to guess and while there were a few things that I saw coming, there were way more that I didn’t. We also got to see more of the world, which was something I was hoping for. We see Lara’s country while they’re trying to rescue Aren and then afterward, they travel to another kingdom to seek an alliance before returning to Aden’s kingdom (I’m not naming any of these places only because I couldn’t spell them to save my life and I’m typing this review on my phone while the story is still fresh in my mind.) Overall, I absolutely loved and devoured this story. There were some scenes of a romantic nature that had me absolutely screaming. I also enjoyed the way the story wrapped up. It seemed as if this was a nice ending for Aren and Lara. And even though things were rather smoothly wrapped up, Jensen made the characters work for that satisfying ending. I’m wondering if the future books in the series are going to be following other characters because this felt like a conclusion to Aren and Lara’s story. But I could be wrong about that. Either way, I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment of the series.
Summary: A warrior princess trained in isolation, Lara is driven by two certainties. The first is that King Aren of the Bridge Kingdom is her enemy. And the second is that she’ll be the one to bring him to his knees. The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom enriches itself and deprives its rivals, including Lara’s homeland. So when she’s sent as a bride under the guise of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture its impenetrable defenses. And the defenses of its king. Yet as she infiltrates her new home and gains a deeper understanding of the war to possess the bridge, Lara begins to question whether she’s the hero or the villain. And as her feelings for Aren transform from frosty hostility to fierce passion, Lara must choose which kingdom she’ll save… and which kingdom she’ll destroy.
Review: After absolutely loving Jensen’s Dark Shores series, I knew I wanted to try some of her other books as well. Antonia bought me The Bridge Kingdom and its sequel for my birthday. Now that it’s cold and I’m in the mood for fantasy again, I thought it would be the perfect time for some new fantasy to love. The Bridge Kingdom follows Lara and Aren in alternating perspectives. Lara is a princess that’s been sent to marry Aren, a King, as a part of an alliance treaty that was agreed upon fifteen years ago. What Aren doesn’t know, is that for the last 10 years, Lara has been trained in every area possible so that she can spy and infiltrate his kingdom and spill its secrets to her father. But Lara is learning that she wasn’t raised in isolation in the desert just to keep others from learning things about her and her sisters, but also so that she wouldn’t know the truth of her own kingdom. She finds herself torn between the truth of Aren’s kingdom and its people and destroying them for the sake of her own people. Lara was a great main character. She’s fierce and cunning, clever and ruthless. It was really compelling to follow her indecision once she starts to really spend time with Aren and his people. When she sees their struggles and imagines what would happen if she were to fulfill her father’s plan, she’s torn between her mission and her heart. I thought that this was a really interesting inner conflict for her. Aren was also a great main character. I liked that we got his point of view alongside Lara’s. He’s a really good king and he just genuinely wants the best for his people. He worries that his choices aren’t the right ones, but he also tries new things to see how he can improve the lives of his subjects. I loved seeing him take charge and flex his authority when he needed to. But I also loved seeing his softer side, giving in when Lara is panicking on the water for example. He was a really well-developed character. The plot of the story was a little predictable, but I honestly didn’t mind that. I definitely guessed most of the things that were hinted at right from the get go. I still had a good time following the story as the chaos unfolded. I think the next book will have a lot more opportunities to surprise me with the plot. The world was interesting, but I’d like to have seen more of it. There was a lot of emphasis on the histories that these countries have, but I don’t really remember it being explained why all of these kingdoms were always at war with each other. It very well might have all just been because of the bridge. I wanted to know more about the bridge too. Was it always there? Did someone build it? I would have loved to have even heard some folklore or myths about the bridge. Overall, this was an interesting and well-told story. I really liked the main character as well as their supporting characters. I think the world was interesting enough and easy to learn about. I will definitely be continuing this series and reading Jensen’s other backlist books.
Summary: THEIR BATTLES ENDED IN VICTORY Lydia returns to Mudaire to enter training at the healing temple. But instead of fighting to save lives, she’s convinced she is doing more harm than good. She delves into the history of the gods only to discover a truth that will change her life forever. His birthright as commander of the Royal Army is finally in his grasp, but Killian feels anything but victorious. Burdened by his past, he embraces the darker side of his mark—and in doing so, risks starting a war. BUT THE WAR HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN Having defeated the tyrant Urcon, Marcus struggles to form a lasting alliance with the Arinoquians. But he is plagued by the knowledge that there is a traitor among his friends, and it could cost him everything that he’s fought for. Torn between her growing allegiance to the Thirty-Seventh legion and her need to liberate her people, Teriana finds herself mired in a web of secrets. She embarks upon a path that will either save everyone she loves—or put them all in their graves.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of Gilded Serpents in exchange for complete honesty about how much this book destroyed me. I reread both book one and book two via the audiobooks (which were really great and I recommend them!!) so the world and characters were fresh in my mind when I started this book. Jensen somehow managed to give me all of the things to make my heart happier than it’s ever been for these characters and yet still rip it still beating right out of my chest. In Gilded Serpents, the four characters that we’ve come to love so very much in the first two books, Teriana, Marcus, Lydia, and Killian, all have their own points of view. And much like how book one and book two paralleled one another with their timelines, book three does that as well. But one of the most interesting things that I noticed was how the events of Marcus and Teriana’s journey paralleled events of Killian and Lydia’s journey. There were times during the story that both pairs were doing the same or similar things, like staying at an inn for example, and I thought that was such a fun aspect of the story. I just want these four to finally all meet up so badly I could scream. I also want to say, there’s a secret that’s finally revealed in this book that I’ve been suspecting since reading Lydia’s book (Dark Skies) and I’m not surprised that I was right but I was happy to have it confirmed. I also really loved that the characters are finally learning things. While Lydia learned where Teriana was in Dark Skies, Teriana has no idea that everyone thinks Lydia dead. So, secrets are revealed in this one and they are juicy. Now, all four of these characters have grown immensely throughout their journeys so far. Lydia, while no expert swordswoman, has learned to defend herself. She’s also learned an incredible amount about her magic. She’s smart and determined, clever and stubborn, fierce and passionate. I love her so much. She’s grown so much from the timid patrician girl we knew in Dark Shores. Teriana’s story is filled with inner conflict. She’s in love with her enemy and that has some obvious challenges. She’s done nothing but make hard choices since this series started and that doesn’t change in this book. She’s faced with more hard choices, but I was delighted to see her find some moments of happiness. I think what I love most about Teriana is that she always stays positive. Even when she’s carrying another human being to what could likely be her death. She suffers and struggles, but doesn’t let those challenges win. Marcus is a tough character for me. I go back and forth between loving him and really disliking him (much like Teriana). He is the Legatus of the 37th legion. But these men are more than just his subordinates, they’re his family. Marcus also faces many challenges in this book. He must make hard choices regarding his men. He’s put in situations where he has to face his fears and others where his internal battle of what’s right versus what’s being ordered. I think I ultimately will love him. But I’ll still probably flip flop back and forth again during the next book. Killian is my favorite. He’s a Marked warrior, so he’s strong, fast, skilled, and very smart when it comes to battle. But he faces a struggle of heart versus duty. (There is another parallel!) With Killian it’s different though because, as the reader, I know a secret that will change everything. Though once that secret is out, we didn’t get to see much after that. Killian’s dark path isn’t over yet, but he will forever fight to keep his loved ones and his kingdom safe. He’s loyal and full of love, compassionate and intelligent. He’s absolutely someone you’d want on your side. Overall, I loved this book just as much as the first two. It was nice not to have to wonder as much about what was happening to the other couple because we were getting all of their points of view. I really liked that the chapters are short and still left me wanting more from each character. I also have to mention the world. We see three places, four if you include the ocean, in the first two books. But in this one, we find out more about other kingdoms and we get to see the mysterious Darin. We also get to see more Marked Ones that are marked by different Gods. I love the magic in this series and it was really interesting getting to see more of the abilities bestowed from other Gods. The only thing I didn’t like was the cliff hanger and that’s only because there isn’t even a cover for book four yet. I face the eternal bookworm struggle of suffering to wait for the next book in the series. I cannot recommend this series enough. It’s full of diverse character that you just can’t help falling in love with.
A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.
A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.
A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world. Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. I was a little worried when I got approved for this one. I don’t remember all that much from the first book, (Dark Shores) aside from the fact that I totally loved it. So, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to jump right into this one, but I saw on GoodReads that the author made a statement that Dark Shores and Dark Skies can be read interchangeably. I thought that was super interesting, so I just jumped right into this one.
We follow Lydia and Killian. They each have their own perspectives, which I loved. Lydia is a bookish girl who loves to learn. But when her future husband attempts to murder her, she finds herself on the other side of the world, a world that she thought was a myth. I loved Lydia because she was determined and strong, even when she didn’t feel like those things. She made a plan and did her best to see it through or make the best of any situation. She was clever and loyal to her loved ones. She did her best to learn as much as she could, about the world she was in and about herself.
Killian is a Marked One. This means he was chosen by a specific god, the God of War, and given abilities. He’s disgraced after losing an important battle, so he becomes the personal guard of the princess. Which means he’s dragged into her plot to overthrow her father. Killian is a good man, though his reputation may not say so. I really liked him.
Overall, I loved this book. It made me want to immediately reread Dark Shores. I loved the world and the characters. There was action and romance and drama. I loved it all. The stakes were high and only got higher. I loved the way the story was concluded. The ending was satisfying enough that I was eager for more of the story, but not annoyed that everything wasn’t solved. I am beyond excited about the characters from this book and the first book to meet. This is a must-read.
In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.
A PIRATE WITH A WILL OF IRON
Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.
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 family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.
A DANGEROUS QUEST
When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two 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. Review:
After seeing a friend of mine read this book and absolutely adore it, I was excited to read it too. I was not disappointed. I flew through this story because I was just enjoying it so much once I finally started reading it.
I adored the main character Teriana. She’s sassy and unapologetic. She does what she needs to do to keep her loved ones safe, even if that means being forsaken by her gods. I loved how fierce and funny she was. I really enjoyed her as a character.
I also really enjoyed Marcus. He was such a good character. Everything about him is just a little morally grey. He wants to be good, may be good on the inside. He has the best intentions but will do anything to protect his secrets. I loved the found family aspect of the story. Marcus is the leader of the Thirty Seventh (essentially a part of the army) and they were trained and grew up together. They’ve been through the worst things in their lives together. I really enjoyed the comradery and seeing the men get to know Teriana.
I think seeing Teriana interact and win over the Thirty Seventh was probably my favorite parts of this book.
The world building was honestly incredible. It was seamlessly intertwined with the story. There was no info dumping and I really appreciated that. I thought the concept of this world was so fascinating and unique. I cannot wait to learn more about what’s going to happen next.
I have no complaints about this book. I completely loved it. I loved the world, the characters, the writing. I just enjoyed the whole reading experience. If you’re in search of a piratey fantasy, look no further.