This book is classic Attanasio -- a truly unique setting, prose as evocative and dense as William Gibson, characters who transcend their own humanity, and familiar tropes revisited in new ways.
I consider Attanasio the Terry Gilliam of fantasy fiction -- he creates images that are shot into your head, mythical in dimension and simultaneously familiar and alien. On its surface, The Dark Shore has all the elements of a traditional epic fantasy -- a "dark lord" who returns to seek revenge, a pair of orphans who embark on a journey to reclaim their lost country, and fierce battles against loathsome and deadly enemies.
But these elements are supplemented with Attanasio's creative quirks -- Dogbrick, the philosophical beast-man; Ripcat, the wandering thief without an identity; even the Dark Lord has more dimensions than we usually get with such a villain. The atrocities the antagonist delivers are truly appalling, plumbing the depths of terrifying evil without lingering overlong.
I won't lie, AAA's prose is sometimes challenging. It's so poetic and packed that you have to pick your way carefully rather than charging in. Some readers are annoyed at having to learn handfuls of new words when they read. I love that sort of thing, and so The Dark Shore was a feast.