1.) Historical fantasy worldbuilding: My biggest genre weakness is historical fantasy, and I wish there was so much more of it. Beyond a Darkened Shore goes way back to ancient Ireland and incorporates Irish mythology into the magic and deity system. I love the richness of Ciara's world, the interactions between her and the goddess, and the fascinating complexities of her powers.
2.) Enemies to lovers romance: Ciara and Leif are the classic enemies to lovers romance with HEAPS of delicious tension. They become true equals and complements to the other, and no matter how doomed their relationship seemed, I couldn't help turning the pages as quickly as possible, hoping for some way out of their dilemmas.
3.) Battle scenes: When gods and mythical creatures are involved in conflict, you know the battle scenes need to be epic, and Leake absolutely delivers. The best battle scenes are grounded in high emotion, and at every step, readers are right there with Ciara and Leif knowing what is on the line if they fail. I think my heart was pounding so quickly during the final battle scene that I physically felt exhausted after reading.
4.) Voice: From the very first chapter, I knew I was hooked into Ciara's story, her love for her sisters, her disdain at her other family, and her immense desire to protect her people. She is rough around the edges, extremely brave, and at the same time, terrified of her own potential. Her character arc is tough, just as she is. The author's voice is natural and compelling.