Book Review: The Shores of Spain by J. Kathleen Cheney


tsos-coverEven as the branches of peace are being offered, there are some who still believe those who are not human should be used as chattel. And they are willing to go to great lengths to retain their power.

Newlywed siren Oriana Paredes has been appointed Ambassador to her home islands now that communication between Northern Portugual and the magical races has been restored. But convincing her people that the new Portuguese Prince’s intentions are honorable after years of persecution is difficult. And her husband, Duilio, faces his own obstacles among the sirens where males are a rare and valuable commodity with few rights.

In addition to their diplomatic mission, the two hope to uncover the truth behind Oriana’s mother’s death. Evidence suggests that Spain—a country that has been known to enslave magical beings—may have infiltrated the siren authority. Unable to leave their post, Oriana and Duilio must call on Inspector Joaquim Tavares to root out the truth.

But even his seer’s gift cannot prepare him for what he will discover.



One of my favorite things about reading J. Kathleen Cheney’s books is the way she combines various genre elements. Here we have a historical fantasy with some romance, mystery, and politics mixed in–and all of these elements work so well together! There’s also a good amount of action in this one which I appreciated–love me some action scenes.

The Shores of Spain is the third and final volume in The Golden City trilogy, about sirens and selkies and other sea folk living off the coast of historic Portugal. This third volume finally gets to the mystery that has been haunting the series from the beginning–who is responsible for the death of Oriana’s mother. The plot really thickens here as a vast conspiracy is unraveled, quite large in scale, that involves not only the politics of local and foreign sirens, but also the governments of Portugal and Spain as well. I loved how complex the plot became! The one downside to that, however, is that a ton of new characters were introduced and I found it a little hard to remember who was who and their role in things.

One thing I liked about this book is that it didn’t just follow Oriana and Duilio but also Oriana’s sister Marina and Duilio’s brother Joaquim. They’re both very different characters from their siblings but it was fun to spend time with them as POVs. Marina is so caring but also super fierce and not despite her fears will jump in to rescue her man if she has to. And Joaquim is practical, methodical, but not without an immense amount of feeling inside. It was lovely to see these two together and their love for one another shine through. I also loved that there is so much family bonding in this one! Not just the siblings but there are other relatives that come into play too, but I won’t mention them as I don’t want to give away major spoilers.

One of the other things I enjoyed about this volume is that we got to spend a lot of time where the sirens live and get to know even more about their culture–as a matriarchal society it’s quite different from the The Golden City which is where the previous two books are set. There is so much world-building that comes into play with this series–not just the historical aspects and the research that went into it but the world of the sirens and other sea-folk as well. There are also the ‘witches’ to consider and this one had a surprise that I won’t talk about because, again, I don’t want to spoil things but holy damn the end of this book things got nuts as a brand new character is unleashed.

I found the pacing of this to be pretty good, I think I did struggle a bit near the beginning but that could have also been because of my mood (I’ve been in a pandemic funk that has me feeling pretty ‘meh’ about reading on and off). Nonetheless, things did pick up quite a bit in the middle and then it was a wild ride to the end! Overall, I had a lot of fun with this book and I’m sad that we’ve reached the end of the series. Luckily for me there are some shorts in the universe as well as other J. Kathleen Cheney books out there that I haven’t read yet. 4/5 stars.

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