Beyond a Darkened Shore

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Jessica Leake is the niece of one of the ladies in my book club. She has written three novels. We also read "Arcana" which I loved. I loved this book equally. Ms. Leake is a super-talented author who writes extremely engaging stories at a near-Diana Gabaldon-level. I read most of this Celtic - Norse mythology historical fantasy book while we were on a three-day vacation to a water park. I gladly sat pool side reading instead of running around to all the water slides. Leif and Ciara might need to be added to encyclopedias of mythology.

However, in my opinion the novel could've ended with Chapter 29 with the promise of peace. It was a happily ever after moment. I can see where Chapter 30 was a nice wrap-up to a couple loose ends but it was more unsettling than finishing. And Chapter 31? What the heck was that for?! In the acknowledgements Leake even apologizes to her mom for refusing to change the ending. don't know what mom was proposing but, as a mom myself, I'd like to say she should've listened to her mom - sometimes mom's really do know best.

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex: 1

Religion: 3

Gruesome: 4

Suspense: 4

Morality: 5

Traditional: 3

Sex - There was only a brief illusion of sex. There are comments indicating that it will happen at some point but when it finally does, blink and you'd miss it. At least, I think it happened. It was like on "The Bachelor" when the couple goes on a trip and you see the door close to the hotel room - end scene. In fact, considering this is a Young Adult novel, I was very pleased that the couple seemed to be saving themselves.

Religion - In as much as mythology is a religion there is a lot of it. But since it is not a current religion I didn't rate it above middle.

Gruesome - Lots of battles, slaying of monsters and the likes that goes along with mythology.

Suspense - There were no moments of angst where I was worried about the characters, but I was very engaged in the book and was easily motivated to keep reading.

Morality - family, honor, commitment, chastity - this book has it all

Traditional - given the non-traditional setting it is a traditional story. Characters have mythical powers but take that away and its a Romeo and Juliet story.

Discussion Questions

How do you feel about crows in general? How did your feelings affect your acceptance of the crow as a magical animal?

Tell of a time when you had to work with an enemy or adversary.

Do you think Ciara's father should've banished her? How could she have prevented being banished but still convinced him of her concerns?

Does your family have any superstitions that contradict your faith? (p. 120)

What did you think was the price of Leif's bargain with the Valkyrie? (p. 142)

Did you have any suspicions about Ciara's parentage? Did you suspect the morrigan as her mother? (Ch. 16)

Were you surprised when Alanna's killer was revealed? (p. 355-356)

What messages can young adults take away from this book? Is the Young Adult genre a good fit for this story or would you rather see it "adultified"?

Theme Ideas

Decorate in clan colors - green and gold. (p. 63) Include a griffin surrounded by a celtic knot. (p. 67)

Decorate with red and gold. Serve fruit in golden bowls, baskets of bread and roasted pork like the "great feast for a successful raid." (Ch. 12)

Serve roast lamb and pork, dried fruit and nuts, salted and fresh fish and dark - nearly black bread. Use wooden bowls and plates like the feast before going to Skien. (p. 350)

Serve "fruit and cheese and meat, honeyed mead and cold ale" like in the hall in Valhalla. (p. 396)