Review: A Secret Shared with Death by Ariella Isabella





“Sometimes it’s the people who hurt us the most that turn out to be our greatest love.”

After watching my village be burned to the ground by elves, I feel the darkness stir below my skin and bones. This deep itch, and voiceless whisper tells me that there’s a way to get my revenge, if I only take the hand that’s offered to me. What I didn’t expect was for that hand to be attached to the Lord of Death, and come at the expense of my sanity and heart.

Accepting help from Death was only the first plunge into the magical world of the Oblivion, and following him to the Fae kingdom of Nádine certainly won’t be the last. King Caspian rules over the Glass Court, a gilded cage where I am trapped with beasts who’s eyes roam over me with disdain. When the king takes an interest in me beyond my strange powers, the target on my back grows.

My abilities have drawn the attention of King Silas, the elf responsible for the inferno that engulfed my home. He’ll stop at nothing to capture me, and use my powers for his crusade across the continent.

Strange dreams haunt me, and I can’t help the confusion that plagues me when I think of the two males who would burn the world for me. The dark power inside of me is alluring, and it promises to satiate my lust for retribution, but at what cost? How long can I conceal my magic? A secret I’ve only ever shared with Death.


Reviewed by Dakota Watson

I picked up A Secret Shared with Death by Ariella Isabella with high hopes, drawn in by its promising premise and intriguing plot. However, as I delved into the pages, I found myself disappointed by its execution. The story held great potential, but it stumbled in its delivery. Plot holes littered the narrative, leaving me with unanswered questions and a sense of disconnect. Additionally, the world building felt lacking, failing to fully immerse me in the setting, and the relationships between characters felt underdeveloped and shallow. One of the biggest letdowns for me was the pacing of the story. It felt uneven and rushed in some parts, while dragging on in others, making it difficult to stay fully engaged throughout.

As someone who’s drawn to complex antihero protagonists, I was eager to meet Isolde in A Secret Shared with Death. However, she left me feeling disappointed and frustrated. Unlike the compelling and morally grey protagonists I’ve enjoyed in the past, such as those in The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White, The Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence or The Young Elites series by Marie Lu, Isolde fell short of this mark. Instead of being intriguingly flawed, she came across as highly unlikable. Her sense of false grandeur and naive impulsiveness made it difficult for me to connect with her. Isolde’s tendency towards disruptive behavior and spontaneous mood swings, which sometimes bordered on what seemed like bipolar disorder, further distanced me from her character. Rather than feeling relatable, she came off as a naive girl who constantly ran her mouth without considering the consequences of her actions. What disappointed me the most was Isolde’s lack of growth or self awareness throughout the story. Instead of owning up to her mistakes and learning from them, she seemed to expect others to bring her the redemption she desperately needed.

Malek, The Lord of Death, and Caspian, Lord of The Glass Court, didn’t fare much better as love interests and main male characters in A Secret Shared with Death. Instead of being fully fleshed out characters, they felt more like plot devices driving the story forward. While I understand the author’s intention to keep Malek’s contribution to Isolde’s powers mysterious to create suspense, it was predictable from the start.

The “Shadow Daddy” trope used with Malek made me cringe so hard, especially when he uttered “Good girl. I like it when you take commands” shortly after meeting Isolde. For those who are now thinking there will be more ‘good girl’ moments, let me stop you right now. There isn’t any more. If this was done properly, it can be a huge turn on, but in this case, it unfortunately wasn’t.

Caspian was your typical ‘Your pussy is so good but you are a tiny female who cannot even fathom to wrap your head around the intricacies of politics (in this case, which was true) and must be protected at all costs’ guy.

As for Caspian and Malek’s attraction to Isolde, it was a conundrum to me. While Malek knew her true identity as Evlyn and Caspian sensed something about her to that effect, Isolde’s character lacked distinctive traits beyond cursing, running her mouth despite the occasion or killing before thinking. Her tendency to act before thinking and her penchant for running her mouth didn’t make her a particularly compelling or attractive character, leaving me puzzled as to why these male characters would be drawn to her beyond her superficial qualities. Yeah, well, Evlyn, I guess. There was no emotional connection among them or relationship growth. It was basically all over the place.

Isolde’s thirst for revenge in A Secret Shared with Death felt somewhat out of place due to the lack of depth in her connection to her village. Throughout the story, Ariella didn’t quite establish a strong bond between Isolde and her village or its inhabitants. While there were a couple of male characters who showed her kindness, the overall portrayal was one of isolation and misery, with the villagers mostly hating and fearing her. This made the drastic action of Silas, the Elf King, burning down the village seem unnecessary and illogical. If the goal was to find Isolde, it would have been way easier for the soldiers to simply inquire about her whereabouts, as someone in the village likely would have happily pointed them in her direction. The decision to burn down the village seemed counterproductive to the mission, risking Isolde’s survival rather than aiding in her capture. I believe he wanted her alive, not roasted.

Isolde’s reckless act of killing the elf emissary in A Secret Shared with Death was a frustrating moment for me. As an emissary, the elf held a significant diplomatic status, a representative of an entire nation or a race, and his death without consideration of the repercussions showcased Isolde’s lack of foresight and political understanding. It was a rash decision that could easily be interpreted as an act of aggression and potentially lead to conflict between the Fae court, the one where she was a guest, I might add, and the Elves.

Moreover, Isolde’s declaration about taking down Silas and Athalia felt hollow and unrealistic, highlighting her naive belief in her own capabilities. Without any tangible plan or political support, her words came off as empty bravado, emphasizing her false sense of grandeur. She was a nobody with no political backing or any sort of army behind her on her own. Her reliance on Caspian and Malek, who were driven by their own agendas rather than genuine support for her, only emphasized her vulnerability and lack of agency in the larger political landscape.

Isolde was whining throughout the book about how everyone was treating her like a human whore in the Fae Court. But my darling Isolde, you indeed were the one who slept with their king only after a couple of interactions, used that in order to get what you wanted and killed an emissary of another Court, who they were trying to avoid a conflict with that would affect their entire nation. Can you blame them? You just dropped in out of nowhere, seduced their king and watched as he seemingly carried out your agenda to quench your misplaced need for vengeance for a village you didn’t seem to care that much at all. You never tried to change their minds or give them a reason to see you any differently. Your go-to was ‘If they stoop low, I am going to stoop lower.’

I could keep talking about it, but I think I’ve said enough. Overall, A Secret Shared with Death had potential, but it didn’t live up to it. The execution was lacking in several areas, and it fell short of my expectations.

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