Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen is the sequel to Dark Shores, which was published in 2019. While Dark Shores follows the characters, Teriana and Marcus, Dark Skies follows Lydia and Killian. What’s unique about the series is that it’s possible to read either book before going onto the next, as they cover the same timeline from different perspectives.
The first part of the novel is slow, especially if one has read Dark Shores, however, once the action picks up, it doesn’t stop. While I was at first put off by what seemed to be the characters doing absolutely nothing, Jensen laid the groundwork in such a way that I began to care about the characters and the divided world they inhabit.
Mudamora is facing threats from all sides. The armies of the Seventh God, the Corruptor, who’s minions literally suck the life out of people, are bearing down on the Kingdom. A blight is spreading throughout the land, mysterious as it is deadly. Years and years of hunger and pain are felt among the citizens who only grow angrier. An unseen conqueror lurks at the other side of the world, preparing to strike.
Lydia is a scholar above all else, which, in the empire of Cel, is rare, especially for a woman. When she’s forced out of her library by a forced betrothal to a cruel man who seeks to expand the Empire’s reach by any means necessary, she must decide what she’s willing to do to protect the people she cares about, especially her best friend, Teriana. Throughout the book, the hardships Lydia faces allow her character to develop past her sheltered, comparatively privileged outlook. She quickly becomes a character the reader is excited to root for.
Killian Calorian, despite the mildly absurd name, is a well-respected commander Marked by the God of War. At least, that’s before a massive loss that results in his disgrace and forces him to pledge his life to the protection of Crown Princess Malahi. Between building up her Guard and aiding the vulnerable children of Mudamora when he can, he seeks redemption. While I was often annoyed by Killian’s loyalty to his country and the Crown, I respect how Jensen stayed true to as a character and a soldier.
The world of Dark Skies itself, Reath, is intricately built, just as the plots of both novels give it abundant life, however harrowing and bleak that life may be. It spans nations and peoples, giving life to cultures on the periphery by featuring characters with that heritage. From the inner and interpersonal conflicts to the many battles- political and military- that ensconce the whole of Reath, it’s incredible to have accounts from both sides of the Endless Sea just before, what I imagine to be, their convergence in Book 3. The many layers of conflict and intrigue are what make this book and this world truly special in YA Fantasy.
I appreciated the detail given to some of the more secondary characters, especially the Guard and Malahi. Malahi, because her perspective is so unique from the rest of the characters, just as her goals are, and her motivations are fun to theorize about. I found her questionable morality at times more interesting than the protagonists, who were unfailingly selfless, which at times became grating. The Guard, because I loved glimpsing bits of each of the girl’s personalities and seeing how they interacted with each other. I’m a sucker for a good girl gang. I would have loved to get even more of them, as they’re definitely not as well developed as the protagonists, but I suppose there’s always the next book.
While the author has said it’s possible to read this book as the first in the series, I highly recommend reading Dark Shores first, as, having read the first book right after it came out, I’d forgotten much of what was laid out in it, and Dark Skies gives the reader less time to acclimate to the world.
That being said, Dark Skies was fantastic! It’s a must-read for any lover of the best parts of YA Fantasy. I can’t wait for the next in the series where Lydia, Killian, Marcus, and Teriana’s stories will continue, this time in the same book, where they’ll have to face threats of both the human and inhuman kind.