Jen reviews Dark Sea’s End, Richard Nell‘s Dark Fantasy novel, the first book in his new series, Beyond Ash and Sand.
Thank you to Richard Nell for the review copy!
|Series: Beyond Ash and Sand #1
|Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy
|Date of Publishing: June 1st, 2021
|Trigger Warnings: war: fighting, etc, sacrifices, blood, gore
|Page count: N/A
Feared pirate and scoundrel ‘Lucky’ Chang has a dirty secret: he loves his crew, and would die to protect them. As he’s dragged from prison to face the dark sea and a dangerous new world, he just might have to.
Zaya, warrior and skald from the land of ash, knows she has a destiny. Having left her homeland with only a knife and a dream of adventure, she finds herself captured by pirates. To discover her fate, and become a hero from the book of legends, she must first survive the sea.
With a monstrous pilot as guide, and an ex-assassin as captain, Chang, Zaya, and the crew of the mighty Prince sail into uncharted waters. There they may find new lands and wealth, as well as glory beyond their dreams, or nothing but their doom.
Set in the same epic world as the award winning Kings of Paradise…this new series from author Richard Nell can be read on its own, or as a continuation of the Ash and Sand trilogy.
“The king of Copanoch’s rages and temper were both famous and well known to be more act than emotion. When the three of them were alone, the king’s face changed, his eyes and tone matching the truth of his nature—restless schemer, brilliant strategist, and the pure ambition of a man who had expanded a city into a kingdom.”
Rise by Katy Perry
When I found out Dark Sea’s End would be returning us to the world of Ash and Sand with a new adventure, and one involving a certain character that I love, I jumped at the chance to read it. I even crammed Kings of Heaven (a short review for that one will follow) into my schedule so I could get to this one without worrying I would spoil myself by skipping ahead. As it was, there was no need to worry because this stands alone very well.
Like the earlier ‘Kings’ books, there is something about Richard Nell’s style that makes it easy for me to fall into his world and shut out my surroundings. He has this way of juggling histories and people, while building nations and cultures that never feels tedious or dull. It’s woven through the story and characters’ lives in such a way that you just don’t think about it. Which is probably why I end up forgetting to talk about how good the world-building is and go on and on about the characters in Nell’s books instead and that’s not going to change much here.
It did take me a bit to adjust to not being in Ruka’s head, but our other POVs were just as fascinating.
Chang and his merry crew of pirates, are given a second chance after being hired-saved from prison to sail Ruka and co. across the sea. I love stories that take place at sea and was thrilled when this began as a sea voyage.
Along the way they rescue Zaya, a skald. She hopes to see more of the world she sings about and perhaps compose some of her own experiences, into songs. I quite liked Zaya in Kings of Heaven – her father Egil, was a character I had a lot of sympathies towards throughout the series, and her mother, I admired a lot. Zaya has grown to be the strong woman her parents raised her to be – one who is willing to learn, and one who has no qualms about going after what she wants.
I really enjoyed Zaya’s struggles to learn the ship, and her interactions with Chang (and later Yucat). I was almost sad when they made land but not for long because that’s where we meet Yucat, a warrior and prince in the new land. Yucat’s father has plans that will secure their family the highest honor and with it a place of prestige in their society.
Yucat ended up being my favorite part of the whole book. I guess I like the characters that are facing the choices that no person should ever be put in a position of having to choose. I had a lot of empathy for him and his plight. Plus, his parts of the story were tense, and though I hoped for a certain choice, I didn’t know what he would choose up until the moment was upon him. It made for some riveting reading.
As usual the characters are tied heavily to the plot so I tried to keep this as vague as I could even when I want to go on and on about these characters because they are so interesting to me and alive… and really, I can’t think of greater praise than the fact that I want to talk about them. All the time. They are never clear-cut “good and bad” sometimes they break your heart and other times you pump your fists for them but, always they are people that you want to see what becomes of them and how the choices they have made will affect them down the road.
I blew through Dark Sea’s End pretty quickly, it’s a solid story that expands the world of Ash and Sand and easily stands alone and is a great jumping in place if you are curious about the series.