Book Review: Tarnished Empire (Dark Shores #0.5)

Title: Tarnished Empire

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Pub. Date: January 26, 2021

Pages: 308

Pub: Indie Pubbed

Genre: YA Fantasy Romance

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

This will be a spoiler free review. I listened to the audiobook via Audible. I’m so glad that I decided to finally read this series last year. I love it, and it was wonderful to be back in this world, with some familiar faces. It prepared me for diving into Gilded Serpents when it comes out next week. That’s also the reason I chose to listen to this now. If you’re interested in my reviews for Dark Shores and Dark Skies – feel free to check them out!

I enjoyed this book – being back with Marcus and kind of seeing what happened before the events of Dark Shores was interesting. I forgot how stiff that boy is prior to his adventure with Teriana. All duty, no fun – but I think it also gave me more of an appreciation for him – to actually see what he goes through before he has the power he wields in Dark Shores. I still think that Marcus needs a hug and maybe a mug of hot coco.

Agrippa was an absolute delight. New favorite character, I would die to protect him. He’s the right balance of cocky and charming and I loved every moment he was on the page. I’d heard fantastic things about him from a friend who’d already read Tarnished Empire, so I was excited to meet him. I heard that he’s in Gilded Serpents – or well, he’d better be, because with how this novella ends – I need to know more.

Actually, speaking of how this novella ends and having already read the first two books in this series, I freaked the fuck out. I was at work listening to this and my jaw dropped, and I just wanted to –

Best Hermione Raising Hand GIFs | Gfycat

I know what it means!!!

I legit got so giddy and so excited for Gilded Serpents.

I will say that I think this novella should be read after having read at least Dark Shores, but I think it’s served best after reading both books, but before Gilded Serpents. I know some people are touting that you should read it first, and then dive into book 1 – which, feel free to – but I think you lose quite a bit. The friend I mentioned earlier, read this prior to reading any other book in the series, and he struggled. While he loved the characters, he had a hard time with the world, and how dense this book is. And it is dense – its 308 pages of action and plot. There’s very little “slice of life” moments to balance out a lot of the heavier stuff. And while I do believe that Danielle wrote this to stand on its own / to be read before book 1 – you don’t get all of the world building and politics that are introduced and explained in Dark Shores. I 100% believe that Tarnished Empire could have been a full-length novel – and I would have inhaled the crap out of it.

Also, if you read it post Dark Shores and Dark Skies – you pick up on little things, or big things, like the ending. It’s just filling in some missing background pieces that wonderfully enhances what you already know of the world and the characters.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest – let’s go back to the characters.

We see some familiar faces (if you’ve read Dark Shores) and that’s always a bonus. But we also meet Silvara.

I’m probably in the minority here, but I could not stand her. While I can understand her motives and why she acts the way she does – on an emotional level, I found her to be naïve and annoying. My friend who read the book before me, doesn’t believe I don’t like Silvara, because he ended up loving her character. But I just never grew to like her. I think her wanting to do what she believes is right is admirable – each side in a war views the other as the “bad guy” – so I get it. But she just didn’t work for me. As much as I kept waiting for it to click, she just annoyed me, and then the shit she pulls at the end…

Yeah, not a fan.

I think my actual words to my friend were “Yeah, fuck Silvara”. I don’t think there was any honor in what she does at the end of this novella, and I didn’t feel for her once she realized exactly what her actions meant. I don’t really like characters who claim to want to do whatever is best, to protect people, only to turn around and purposefully hurt those who only make them stronger.

I get that the dynamic between her and Agrippa is fraught with tension and tbh, bad decisions – they’re on opposites sides after all – but like, her actions towards him sucked. My heart broke for him, and I can’t forgive Silvara for hurting Agrippa. He’s too precious.

While this novella didn’t live up to all of my expectations, I still truly enjoyed it. I’m super excited to dive into my eARC of Gilded Serpents and to find out what happens next. I’ve been dying to know, and now I’m going to be able to find out. This quick became one of my all-time favorite series, and Danielle has quickly become a favorite author.  I highly recommend starting this series if you haven’t yet, and make sure you pick up Tarnished Empire. I need to go order a physical copy now, and pre-order Gilded Serpents which is out April 27, so make sure you do the same!

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Tarnished Empire (Dark Shores #0.5)

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