Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores #3) By Danielle Jensen
I can’t say I saw THIS coming, but I’ll take it! Just on the heels of releasing Dark Skies (Dark Shores #2), Danielle Jensen has blessed us with the cover and a preview of the third book in her Dark Shores series, Gilded Serpent. Due to release on April 27, 2021, Torteen revealed everything on Twitter. I do have to warn you that unlike Dark Shores and Dark Skies, you do need to have read the first two books to read Gilded Serpent. So, beware of spoilers.
The suggested reading order for the Dark Shore Series is, as follows:
- Dark Skies or Dark Shores
- Dark Shores or Dark Skies
- Gilded Serpent
Here are links to my previous reviews and an interview with the Dark Shores world, mastermind, Danielle Jensen (I may have scored an interview around the release of Gilded Serpent, as well):
Gilded Serpent Cover And Summary (Goodreads Link)
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.
Again- Spoiler Warnings!
It was pouring rain.
Monstrous droplets that stung as they struck, like having a cups full of pebbles thrown against her face over and over again. A deluge that turned the streets of Aracam to streams, waterfalls pouring from the rooftops, and the blackened skies flickering with lightning, the resultant thunder deafening in its intensity.
Yet for all the storm’s ferocity, the Arinoquians had still come out in the thousands, in the tens of thousands, to witness the execution of Urcon.
A platform was set up at the center of the god circle, the great stone towers dedicated to each of the seven gods seeming to watch as the space filled with people. Men. Women. Children. Their faces were twisted with hate and fury and excitement, their words indistinguishable, but the collective volume rivaled the thunder as they called for the blood of a tyrant.
Motion caught Teriana’s eye, and she glanced past Marcus to see Titus cross his arms, his helmet doing much to hide his disapproval of the scene. Not for the first time, she was struck by how much he resembled his father, Lucius Cassius. And not just in his features.
“If they riot, we’ll have more casualties than we did taking the bloody city,” Titus muttered. “How many of them do you suppose there are?”
“To bear witness is to strike the blow. It’s the closest thing to revenge these people have,” Marcus answered, his voice still raspy from his injured throat.
It had been only two days since they’d stood together on the hill overlooking Aracam. Since he’d committed to whatever it was that was between them: a fragile relationship built on affection and lust and something deeper she wouldn’t put a name to. Two days since she’d abandoned reason and committed to the same.
Water sluiced down Marcus’s face; his eyes fixed on the crowd, mouth an unsmiling line, the slight flexing of the muscles in his jaw the only sign of emotion. A scrape marred one of his cheeks, and his throat was ringed with dark bruises in the shape of fingers. Injuries that he’d gained coming to her aid when she’d been kidnapped and held prisoner in a failed gambit to defeat the Cel legions.
As though sensing her scrutiny, Marcus turned his head, gray-blue eyes meeting hers with an intensity that made Teriana feel as though they stood utterly alone, despite being surrounded by fifty men of the Thirty-Seventh. The corner of his mouth tilted up for a heartbeat, and warmth flooded her chest, then his gaze moved back to the crowd.
Her own skin prickled, and Teriana looked to her left, finding Felix’s gaze on her. The Thirty-Seventh’s second-in-command’s bland expression did nothing to hide his anger and hurt at having his place at Marcus’s side usurped. Given he was potentially the one who’d paid Urcon’s men to get rid of her, standing elbow to elbow with him was unnerving at best. Was it you? She silently asked. Are you the traitor?
Or are you merely the scapegoat?
The crowd abruptly surged, pulling Teriana from her thoughts, the roar of their voices deafening. A thin corridor formed, leading toward the platform, and several armed Arinoquians appeared, dragging a figure between them.
For more than a decade, he’d lorded over his people with a heavy fist, extorting their wealth, stealing their children for his armies, slaughtering any who stood against him, and enforcing his dominance with terrifying brutality. He was a monster. A villain of the first order.
But it was hard to remember that as her eyes latched on the ancient man, the warriors were half carrying, his legs unable to bear his weight.
They’d stripped him, his naked body scrawny and feeble and showing signs of gout. A few wisps of white were plastered against his skull, his sunken eyes wild with fear and confusion. He tripped over his own feet, only the grip of his captors keeping him from falling.
He’s a murderer, she reminded herself, remembering the people from Imperator Ereni’s town that Urcon’s men had left slaughtered on the path as a warning for Marcus. Remembered how their blood had coated her bandaged feet, sticky and stinking of copper. Remembered the testimonies of the victims of his men who’d committed atrocities in Urcon’s name. Remembered that it had been this feeble old man who’d employed Ashok, one of the corrupted, to exercise his control of Arinoquia and its people.
Yet for all the reminders brought back her terror, they still jarred with what she was seeing with her own two eyes. Who would follow this man?
Then the Arinoquians started to throw pebbles.
Teriana flinched as the first struck, Urcon crying out and blood running from a wound on his temple. Another pebble opened a thin line of red across his shoulder. Another a lesion across his thigh. Swiftly she lost count, the air filling with flashes of gray as the people he’d tyrannized for so long rained their hate down upon him.
“They’re going to kill him before Ereni has a chance to swing that axe,” Titus said. “What a mess this is. We should have handled the execution.”
“He’s their kill,” Marcus answered, and Teriana wondered whether he’d made that decision because he knew Ereni had been displeased about him taking the honor of executing Urcon’s men in Galinha. Whether it was a political choice meant to earn the Arinoquians’ favor. Or whether it was another reason entirely.
The warriors dragged Urcon onto the platform where Ereni and the other imperators waited, and the barrage of stones ceased. The old man was bleeding and sobbing, and he remained prone in front of the imperators.
“The gods have born witness to your crimes, Urcon!” Ereni inclined her head to each of the towers. “And unless one of them sees fit to stay my hand, let them bear witness to your punishment!”
Everyone in the crowd lifted their hands to make the sign of the Six against their chests, and though she was typically careful never to do so around the Cel, Teriana did the same.
Ereni hefted an axe, the blade wet and glinting from the rain, and the crowd screamed for blood. Her mouth moved, but it was impossible to hear her over the noise of the crowd.
“What did she say?” Titus asked, and Teriana curbed the urge to tell him to be quiet.
“She told him to get up.” Marcus’s tone was flat. “For Arinoquians, it’s a matter of honor to face one’s execution bravely in order to earn the favor of the gods. She’s giving him the opportunity to regain face before he dies. An opportunity to save himself from being taken by the Seventh god to the underworld.”
How do you know that? Teriana wondered. Who told you?
Do you believe it?
Titus spit on the ground. “Pagan nonsense. Bastard deserves to die on his knees.”
“Titus,” Marcus said, “shut up.”
At any other time, Teriana would’ve smirked, but it was all she could do to keep her stomach contents in check as Ereni again shouted at Urcon to get to his feet. But instead, the ancient tyrant attempted to crawl to the edge of the platform, trying to flee his execution.
Expression tightening, Ereni barked an order at her warriors, who grabbed hold of Urcon’s ankles, dragging him back to the center of the platform. He managed to extricate himself from their grip, curling into a ball like a frightened child. The warriors forced his body straight, trying to get him into a position where Ereni could swing, but Urcon writhed and twisted.
This isn’t right.
Next to her, Marcus rocked slightly on his heels, and when she glanced at him, his jaw was tense, his brow furrowed. Stop this, she willed him. Stop it, before it’s too late.
The crowd was losing its momentum, the noise diminishing as more warriors dragged an execution block onto the platform, tying Urcon to it so that his arms were splayed out. Ereni said something to the other imperators, who all nodded. Then her gaze flicked Marcus’s direction.
He didn’t so much as twitch.
The axe blade gleamed as Ereni swung it through the air, slicing through the falling rain, time seeing to slow to a crawl as it descended. But instead of striking true, it embedded in the base of Urcon’s skull. The old man screamed in agony.
Grimacing, Ereni jerked the blade free and swung again, but this time hit Urcon’s shoulders, the axe embedding deep in the muscle. The old man howled and Teriana gagged, covering her mouth.
“I’m not watching this,” Felix growled, turning, but Marcus reached past Teriana, catching his second-in-command’s arm. “We helped make this happen. So we will watch.”
Ereni swung the axe a third time, the blade sending droplets of blood flying over the crowd, which was no longer cheering.
This time her aim was true, the weapon severing Urcon’s head from his neck. She reached down and picked it up, holding it high. Blood poured down, glistening crimson droplets joining the rain on the platform, Urcon’s eyes dull and sightless. “The tyrant is dead!”
The crowd roared, repeated Ereni’s words over and over, but all Teriana could think of was whether Urcon was being dragged down to the Underworld. And whether he deserved it.
“The tyrant may be dead,” Marcus echoed the crowd’s refrain. “We shall see about the tyranny.”
“Why do you say that?” Teriana murmured under her breath.
“Because,” he said, turning away from the bloody scene. “This particular tyrant wasn’t working alone.”
The eBook edition of Gilded Serpent is available for pre-order now! The hardcover edition will be available to pre-order this July. In the meantime, make sure to add Gilded Serpent to your Goodreads shelf!