Part 1: The Lady

Rated 4.14/5 based on 14 reviews
Trapped in fear and poverty after the death of her parents, the thief Nereia will go to desperate lengths to protect her beautiful younger sister from Copeland the moneylender. No-one has dared to attempt escape before; the whole of Scarlock trembles in his grasp. Only Nereia’s cunning and some unlooked-for help give her hope... More

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About J. A. Clement

J. A. Clement lives near London with her partner and a sneaky but handsome lurcher with a predilection for gingerbread. She writes her fantasy series "On Dark Shores" whenever she can, mostly in her lunch hour (which probably explains the excessive number of bacon sandwiches that have to be edited out later).

The main series is accompanied by the 'Parallels' series which features other stories set in the same world. Her "To-Write" list is as big as your "To-Read" list (and covers several genres, but she just needs to finish this series first...)

For advanced warning of new releases, you can sign up to her newsletter via her blog, or she's happy to be contacted by readers via email at jaclement [dot] ondarkshores [at] gmail [dot] com. She is happy to answer any questions she can without spoilers, and does love a good gossip with fellow bookworms. You have been warned...

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Sheila Deeth reviewed on on April 16, 2012

It took a little while to get into J.A. Clement’s On Dark Shores, the Lady, even though I’d already read the prequel, Parallels. But perhaps I was looking for too many parallels between the stories. Characters do reappear, but the story's set later and the future's more important than the past. The evil Copeland's still ruling the port town of Scarlock and Nereia, the thief, works for him, trying to keep her younger sister safe and fed. Boxer Blakey wounds people in his master's name but might be a much deeper character than he seems. Mickel deals with the outside world. Sailors man the ships and enjoy the brothels. And hope is hard to find.

Despite its darkness, this story’s infused with the promise of something more. Mysteries lurk on the edge of revelation as Nereia and her sister make a bid for freedom. The author spares nothing in portraying the cruelties and hardships of life, but adds a pleasing human kindness and the promise of more. I was just sorry the novella finished before the “more” was revealed, giving this reader a feeling of having read only part of something really good. I hope there’ll be a sequel soon, but I guess I wish I’d held off reading until the sequel was there.

The story’s highly recommended—just a pity it’s incomplete. More please!

Disclosure: I was lucky enough to get a free ecopy from the author in a promotion. Now I’ll just have to look out for more. These characters demand it.
(reviewed 27 days after purchase)
Amy Eye reviewed on on Aug. 11, 2011

A small town is plunged into oppression single-handedly by a nasty piece of work. A long-ago wealthy child is now forced to live in squalor while trying to raise and protect her younger sister. A drug addict doing all the wrong things for the right reasons.

These are only some of the characters you will encounter when you enter this little town. The main focal point of the town is not known for its beauty, it is known for its short skirts and ample bosoms. This quaint little port town is also being held under the thumb of a tyrant who has no problem sicking his bodyguard on anyone who doesn't or is not able to pay back money loaned out.

Nereia is, unfortunately, this tyrants niece, but if you think that gains her pr her sister, Mary, any type of leniency, you would be way off the mark. Not only does this not help these two sisters, Nereia seems to get treated worse for the relationship. Her uncle is constantly trying to force her to work in the brothel, which she refuses to do. She puts her life at risk every night as a thief to keep her and her sister fed and out of his clutches. But his claws reach farther than she ever thought possible, and death may come to Nereia anyhow, and her pocketbook no heavier for the trouble.

I am anxiously awaiting the next book in this series, I must know what happens next. While I am waiting on the next installment, I would say it was one of my biggest irritants about the book. I felt that we had no closure to anything that was started in this book. While I know this is the first of a series, the readers need some sort of closure on at least one of the plot lines that are going on in this book. Unfortunately, none of the ends were tied up...leaving me to wonder what happened with everything.

What I did love about this book was the many plot lines that were woven in with one another. This is a very complex story being told in a short novella. I am intrigued to see how she will tie up the story to make them all fit, and what else she has in store for us.

The characterization in the book is done beautifully. We hate who we are supposed to hate, and let me tell you, if I ever would get a hold of the one we are supposed to hate in this story, there would definitely be police reports filed. I wanna beat the tarnation outta this man!! So, yes, we hate those we are supposed to hate, and are interested in all of the other characters that have been introduced. For being a shorter book, I would say this was very well done. I have seen longer books that had not been able to accomplish the same thing.

Anyone with a great imagination will be able to vividly bring up the horrific details that are brought up in this book. While this isn't a gruesome book, there are some elements in it that would be noteworthy in a horror flick. All I cam say is...Poor, poor Emma. The great thing about books though, is that you can make the details as clean or R-rated as you would like. Add in the smells, drips, and stains if you wish, or keep it a bit more sterile, but either way, you will still get a picture of the trauma happening.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something a bit different than the run-of-the-mill book. This book actually takes me back to my younger years when I read more adventure books. There is no paranormal aspects to it, just all action and some adventure. Pay attention to the details as you go, or the web JA Clement weaves for you may be missing a few strands, and you will need to be aware of them all in order to grasp the concepts.
(reviewed 39 days after purchase)
A. F. Stewart reviewed on on Aug. 7, 2011

On Dark Shores 1: The Lady by JA Clement is an enthralling page-turner and I adored the book. The marvellous story sucked me in from page one and the way the author weaves her narrative elements together, I believe she may be the literary child of Charles Dickens and Ursula K. le Guin.

Sometimes you find a book that is such a delight to read, you don’t want to pry your eyes away from the page; On Dark Shores 1: The Lady is such a book. You fall in this world of fantasy from the first word, swept along by a wave of mystery, struggle, fear and appealingly genuine characters. The author serves you a world you can almost smell and taste and hear, where people act from hidden motives, spite, desperation, honour, duty and even cruelty. There is an entrancing spell woven from every fibre, with characters scheming revenge or thievery, manipulating for their own ends, fighting to escape and survive. But still, a certain thread of hope or fate winds a subtle touch through the book to elevate any grim or bleak ambience, giving the plot a radiating spark.

The only bad thing about this novel is that it ended too soon, but as it is the first in a series I can look forward to more. The end left tantalising questions still pending and I’m salivating to read the next instalment. Lucky for me, there was a sneak peek at the next part tucked away at the end of the book.

On Dark Shores 1: The Lady is one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a while, and I recommend you beg, borrow or buy this book. You won’t be disappointed.
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
IndolentReader reviewed on on Aug. 2, 2011

Ahh, where to begin? Let me start by saying that this book is of a genre that wouldn’t usually be my first choice. Or second. Probably not even third. Then let me carry on to say that I am SO glad to have been offered the chance to read it, as On Dark Shores: The Lady is some of the best writing I have come across in a long time. It’s one of those books that has me enviously thinking “why can’t I write like that? It’s not fair!” every other sentence.

Author J.A. Clement has the knack of pulling the reader right along with the flow of the story. She takes the approach of frequent cuts between scenes, shifting the reader’s attention between characters, without ever losing focus on the central plot. I read this book with a constant nagging feeling of “just a couple more pages then I SWEAR I’ll put it down for the night” that somehow had me awake and still reading ’til dawn because I couldn’t quite bear to stop yet. There might be something wrong with me, though. It sounds like the inhabitants of the town of Scarlock aren’t exactly living overly happy or fulfilling lives under the thumb of the unpleasant Copeland, but somehow the author’s description of the place made me want to go there, rent myself a little stone hovel, wander the cobbled alleys and generally assimilate!

…. All of which leads me to the only minor thing I can fault this book on, and that is the fact that the author cruelly and heartlessly left me hanging. I got to the end of The Lady and felt a bit like I’d just finished a chapter in the most amazing epic novel when a mugger came up and snatched the thing out of my unsuspecting hands. Now I’m left feeling all bereft and longing for my next fix of the little world that Clement has dreamed up and so eloquently put down in words. There’s a difference, though - a BIG one! - between being left feeling dissatisfied and being left hungry for more. On Dark Shores: The Lady definitely has the latter effect, and in closing I’d just like to say one thing. J.A. Clement, I firmly believe you have this story all mapped out in your head, and I get the feeling it might be a long one (I do hope so). So, if you’d just be so kind as to give up all unnecessary extraneous distractions such as eating, sleeping, bathing and suchlike, and get down to the important business of writing and editing the rest of the On Dark Shores series, I would be pathetically grateful. At this point I’m quite desperate to find out what happens next, and I’m not ashamed to beg! Thanks much.

In short? Yes, you should read this.
(reviewed 10 days after purchase)
Eroica Boldt reviewed on on Aug. 1, 2011

Although I'm not a fantasy fan, I enjoyed On Dark Shores, Book 1 and I'm looking forward to the rest. Clements has created a bustling world crammed with backstory and layered with multiple, interrelated plots that I can't wait to see continued in subsequent books. Usually I like a denser atmosphere, with lots of moody details and description, but Clements strips this type of thing down to the essentials in favor of a driving pace, and I think this was a good move. There's a lot going on, and the action is quick enough that we stay engaged with all the various characters.

There's a prologue which pulls its weight: it whet my appetite by creating some suspense up front about the major characters and their stories, but it also framed the forestories in a larger world of dreams, magic, and prophecy in language evocative enough to satisfy even my prodigious appetite for shadow and water imagery. I hope in future books, Clements returns often to this other voice.

I do tend to be a weenie about violence, so I should mention that some scenes are horrific, but occur offstage. What makes it easier to bear is knowing that not all the victims are the "victim" type. I fully expect to see one in particular come back not just as a survivor, but as an even more powerful hero. In Clements' world, the shores may be dark, but there is brightness ready to burst from the depths.

When's the next one coming, JA?
(reviewed 4 days after purchase)
yaffa Dina reviewed on on July 31, 2011

Caught pulled in right from the beginning -- a rare talent. The end left me greedy for the next volume. It did seem, not so much, historical as out of time,which is what I think good fantasy should be.
While the story and many of the characters are dark, there are enough twists and characters who aren't as cowardly and afraid of Copeland as they might have been. Can't wait for the next volume!
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)
yaffa Dina reviewed on on July 31, 2011

Caught pulled in right from the beginning -- a rare talent. The end left me greedy for the next volume. It did seem, not so much, historical as out of time,which is what I think good fantasy should be.
While the story and many of the characters are dark, there are enough twists and characters who aren't as cowardly and afraid of Copeland as they might have been. Can't wait for the next volume!
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)
Jenn P reviewed on on July 28, 2011

On Dark Shores is a tale that is just that, dark.
J.A. does a wonderful job in her descriptions of weather and scenery so much that I actually almost shivered.
That should say a lot since it is over a 100 where I live.
She gives such life to her characters that I could see them as real people and found myself even feeling their own emotions, even the most awful of villains!
Her main character in this book is a very headstrong and stubborn girl by the name of Nereia.
She will do anything possible to save her innocent little sister Mary, including swallowing her own pride and giving into the horribly oppressive and vicious Copeland who is in short, the town dictator.
I found this book to be an engaging read.
On Dark Shores is a tale of mystery, intrigue and despair.
The suspenseful ending will leave you with a ray of hope and excitement to get your hands on the second installment.
(reviewed 11 days after purchase)
Jeffrey M. Poole reviewed on on July 16, 2011

A dark, gripping novella...

Without realizing it, I'm discovering myself a fan of novellas. Short stories with wonderfully created worlds and disctinct characters that are very easily imagineable. On Dark Shores is such a novella.

This story is set in a grimy little town where it is ruled mercilessly by the moneylender, Copeland. He and his bodyguard, Blakely, keep the villagers cowering with fear, extorting money and doling out beatings on a daily basis. There are two sisters, and one has been forced to become a thief, being a distant relative to Copeland himself. When the older sister realizes she'll be unable to protect the younger any longer, she determines it is time to try and escape from the clutches of her cousin.

There's clearly more going on with the townfolk than they let on. The bodyguard, Blakely, used to be a boxer, and has the power to eliminate the moneylender's grip over the town, but instead chooses to hide his emotions in booze and drugs. There's the barkeep, Mickel, who was formerly a medic, I think, and is forced to resume his old profession as the town doctor is afraid to cross Copeland.

I won't go into any other details here lest I inadvertently give away a spoiler. Let me just say, instead, that I enjoyed the story. The writing was smooth and flawless in execution. I had no problems imagining I was skulking around in the dark streets of Scarlock. This isn't a story for the faint of heart. There's gruesome scenes of torture and murder and of unspeakable acts of cruelty. On the plus side, the scenes are so well written that you're glued to the pages waiting to see what happens next, much like you would do if you saw an train wreck: you know you should look away, but you find yourself transfixed to the scene. Like that. :)

There were a few critiques that I could find. Again, without giving anything away, the skeleton scene. I'm not sure where that came from, but I was confused about why it was there. I think I see where the author was going with it, but just thought it was odd and not really fitting with the rest of the story. I feel as though the story was cut off abruptly, but I'll take that as a good sign, as I'm clearly intersted in learning what happens next, when Karma will finally catch up to those who need it, and what the fate of the older sister is.

Ms. Clement, nicely done! I'll definitely pick up the next in the series when it's released!
(reviewed the day of purchase)
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