Review | Dark Sea’s End – Richard Nell

About the Book

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.(

Published June 1, 2021
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This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

I’m a big fan of Richard Nell’s books. Well, not just his books but I think the man himself is pretty cool too. He’s got an absolute boatload of talent. When I’m feeling like I need to take a fantasy break, Nell is an author I can always turn to. No matter how burnt out I’m feeling, his books are ones I welcome. 

Dark Sea’s End takes off immediately after the events of his previous trilogy, however, you don’t have to have read his trilogy to appreciate these books. This is a totally separate series, which will appeal to old readers, new readers, and people like me (I forget things.). That being said, Nell adds on to the world readers will know in some remarkable ways, showing us new terrain, cultures, and peoples. In fact, I found the worldbuilding to be just as remarkable as the story itself, with no detail overlooked and steeped in carefully revealed history, which gave the entire book a sense of time as well. 

Nell drops his readers right into the middle of the action as soon as the book starts, and while there are always things happening, I never really felt like those things made this book as dark as Nell’s previous trilogy. More rooted in adventure, Dark Sea’s End has plenty of action, and yet it’s part first-contact and discovery story as well. I was quite amazed with just how much Nell packed into these pages. The story is pretty relentless, with ceaseless forward motion, and yet I never felt like Nell overlooked or glossed over any important details, worldbuilding, or moments with his characters. 

And oh, those characters.

Nell has a knack for making his characters shine. Usually, I find them to be just as interesting, if not more so, than all the other aspects of his book. Told from three different POVs, each character is from a dramatically different place socially, physically, and emotionally, than all the others, and their motivations are just as individual as they all are. A true master of voice, it is impossible to get any of them mixed up. They stand completely apart. 

That being said, they are all used perfectly to show different aspects of the events in this book, and each narrative serves to give readers a more well-rounded perspective than they otherwise would have. And Nell doesn’t just stop there. His secondary characters are just as dynamic and interesting as the POV character, shining like brilliant stars while they are on the page. This is essential, because so much of this book is new and brilliant, from landscapes to culture to history. I felt like the different perspectives were brilliantly used to show me nuances of all this I otherwise would have missed.

Nell explores a bunch of deeper themes here, using perspective and history, social and familial obligation in some cases, to do just that. There are moments of discomfort for his characters, but I found the way he pushed them past their comfort zone to be almost gently done. He didn’t just shove them out on a limb and watch them fall. Rather, he brings them to points where they are asking important questions, and then gently has them probe their own souls throughout his narrative arc to find their answers. Not everything is resolved, but I loved how he used his story to poke at these deeper themes, like religion and personal gain, without ever really feeling like he was hitting me over the head with it or using it as a hammer to fundamentally break his characters. 

There were points when I was reading this book when I thought, “Nell really is having one hell of a good time writing this book, isn’t he?” I mean, I could practically feel how much fun he was having. The pace is pretty breakneck and there are some amazing action scenes, but beyond all that, the Dark Sea’s End is full of a sense of wonder, and curiosity that really worked for me. There’s something addicting about reading a book you know the author really loved writing. That passion is there, on every page and it made the book burn bright. 

Different in tone from his previous work, yet no less wonderful for it, Dark Sea’s End is a brilliant start of a new series. No long expositions, or infodumps, this book might be a bit more accessible to readers looking for a fast-paced adventure story. Yet, there are deeper themes at play here as well. Superb character development and Nell’s incredible knack for prose that positively shine, Dark Sea’s End is a homerun. 

Absolutely brilliant. 

5/5 stars