Book Reviews

Book Review: Tarnished Empire by Danielle L. Jensen

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Dark Shores #0.5
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes


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.


My Review: Having read Dark Shores and Dark Skies, I (an anxious turtle) felt tense for the majority of this prequel. I couldn’t shake the notion that everything was going to end in tears (figuratively). These feelings kind of overshadowed my overall enjoyment of the story but this is in no way a bad book – far from it!

Tarnished Empire embodies everything I’ve come to know, love and admire about Danielle L. Jensen’s books. From appealing characters to dark, twisted conflicts to intricate plots, Tarnished Empire captivated me from start to finish. This prequel is a sorry not sorry punch in the feels with extremely high stakes and everything to lose for our main characters.

Agrippa (the 37th’s primus) is a bright light piercing the darkness of war. He’s laid back, well liked, and always has a quip at the ready. He aspires to be more than what the Empire has forced him to be. I really enjoyed getting to know him. I think many underestimate him – sometimes to their own detriment. Beneath Agrippa’s extroverted exterior is a fierce intelligence. He can adapt quickly to any given situation and possesses an unwavering loyalty to his brothers/comrades of the 37th. Most notably were Agrippa’s fears, wants, and desires the Empire couldn’t beat out of him, that he refused to let go of. All in all, Agrippa is a good man and friend.

Silvara is another new character we are introduced to. Like Agrippa, Silvara strives to be more and do more, to leave some mark upon history, to show her worth. She doesn’t want to sit idly by while her family and fellow Bardenese are trapped and under siege. Aiding the rebel cause quickly proves to be more taxing than she had anticipated, especially as she develops feelings for Agrippa. Some of her decisions and actions surprised me. At times, I found her hypocritical but I see where she’s coming from. I did not expect her storyline to go the way it did. I’d held out hope for a different outcome but the one we’re given was bold and made me love the story more.

My opinion about Marcus hasn’t really changed. As the legatus of the 37th legion, Marcus bears a heavy, lonely burden. If anything, this prequel just reaffirms why I like and respect his character so much. I still found Marcus from Before’s storyline interesting to witness. The rare expressions of humor, the rule follower, the cunning.

I am very invested in these three characters and enjoyed having their alternating POVs. They are up against terrible odds: the war within themselves to do the right thing and (figuratively) the war against the poor-excuse-for-human-beings that is Celendor’s Senate. It’s a troubling opposition with far-reaching consequences. Despite the mass tension, Tarnished Empire is an enjoyable story that pumped me up for Gilded Serpent. This series is amazing.

Note: Tarnished Empire is a prequel to the main series. Dark Shores can be read before or after Dark Skies as they both take place relatively at the same time. The author highly recommends reading Tarnished Empire before Gilded Serpent (book 3).

More by Danielle L. Jensen

Dark Shores
Dark Shores (#1)
Dark Skies (#2)

The Malediction Trilogy
Stolen Songbird (#1)

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