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Book Review: On These Black Sands (Aisling Sea, Book 1) by Vanessa Rasanen


Ever since reading From Tormented Tides by Val E. Lane, I’ve been into more sea-faring tales (pirates, Vikings, etc.) so I had put the Aisling Sea series by Vanessa Rasanen on my TBR. Originally, I wasn’t going to read the series until it was completed, as both books in the trilogy end on a cliffhanger. But on my recent trip to Boston, I felt called to pick up the first book, On These Black Sands, as the sea was calling to me. Not to mention, this series features a morally grey hero, a found family, a slow-burn romance, and the one-bed trope. Not that I pick up books for tropes, but those are the ones I enjoy.


He doesn’t mind killing people… he just prefers to do it on his own terms.

But the pirates have no say in who they kill on this island.

The council orders. The pirates obey.

This arrangement has kept Declan from setting foot on these shores for years…until a bit of bad luck forces him to return.

But it may prove a lucrative stop, if the rebel’s information is true.

Find the dagger. Escape this life.

But only if this damn stowaway doesn’t ruin everything first.

Book Details

  • Published: August 10, 2021
  • Page Count: 440 pages
  • Genre: New Adult, Fantasy Romance

Thoughts on On These Black Sands

The book is told in the third person with a limited point of view. It primarily rotates between Declan and Aoife’s points of view, but we occasionally get Cait’s perspective to gain insight into what’s going on with the Rogues. The rebels who asked Declan for help in obtaining a magical dagger that would help anyone defeat their adversaries.

Aoife was born into a life of luxury as the heir to Cregah’s council, but she was kept in the dark about what really happened on the island kingdom. She was taught that they were nonviolent and that anyone who defied their laws would be exiled. That is, they would be expelled off the island and ordered never to return. She soon discovers, however, that exile truly means that those people are slaughtered by pirates who fail to pay their taxes when they dock at port. Aoife discovers this after finding that one of her ‘sisters’ was planning to flee with a pirate who was not a pirate lord. She was attempting to figure out how her sister could be with her lover without being punished by the council. Only by speaking up and asking those hypothetical questions does the council decide to kill Lani (the sister in question). Aoife then flees the council and stows away on Captain Declan’s ship. When she is discovered, he decides to let her stay until the next port, but she must remain in his quarters so he can keep an eye on her.

Declan decides that Aoife will stay with them for the duration of his plans to free the fae enslaved by the council and retrieve the dagger after she is discovered and nearly kidnapped twice. As a result, the two develop a friendship and later romantic affection for one another. However, just as things are heating up between the two, the mission to rescue the fae goes awry. I won’t go into detail about what transpired during the mission, but it made for an interesting conclusion. Yes, it ended on a cliffhanger, and I’m curious to see how it plays out in the next book.

Overall, On These Black Sands gets a 4.25 out of 5-star rating from me.

I couldn’t put this book down and thought it was excellently written. There was no information overload; the history and world-building were sprinkled throughout. The fact that pirates were killing in exchange for not paying taxes was not immediately revealed. Because of the councilwomen’s association with the pirate lords, I assumed they were forced to ‘service’ someone sexually. So, that came as a bit of a surprise. Considering how much Declan despises going to that port and what happened to Declan’s parents in the past, it makes a lot more sense that they were compelled to execute people for the council. Not to mention what happened to Lani.

Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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