Hello, everyone! I just finished reading Deadbeat Druid by David R. Slayton earlier this afternoon. So, this review is coming hot off the presses. 🙂 I’m so glad I made the time to read this series this year. It was definitely worth prioritizing.
The living cannot be allowed to infect the dead.
Adam Binder has lost what matters most to him. Having finally learned the true identity of the warlock preying on his family, what was supposed to be a final confrontation with the fiend instead became a trap that sent Vic into the realm of the dead, where none living are meant to be. Bound by debt, oath, and love, Adam blazes his own trail into the underworld to get Vic back and to end the threat of the warlock once and for all.
But the road to hell is paved with more than good intentions. Demons are hungry and ghosts are relentless. What awaits Adam in the underworld is nothing he is prepared to face. If that weren’t enough, Adam has one more thing he must do if he and Vic are to return to world of the living: find the lost heart of Death herself.
***Thank you to Blackstone Publishing for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. I read the finished copy from my library after requesting that they order it on Libby. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
There were so many things about this series and this book that I loved. The mythology and world-building of it all was so fascinating. The unique take on the afterlife in this story really stood out to me, and it felt like a mix of purgatory and Dante’s rings of hell. The personification of Death in this series has always been interesting, and I enjoyed how everything came together to reveal her endgame and the threads she weaved to get all the characters lined up to do her bidding. The magic was filled with rich descriptions and had a nebulous quality to it that kept me guessing at how it might be used next. However, I don’t think I ever quite figured out how it all worked, and I’m not convinced the author did either. lol.
The characters and their relationships are honestly the highlight of all three of the books in this series. The author captured the loneliness, fear, and anger often associated with growing up queer in deep rural America. Adam was an excellent avatar for that experience, and I loved that the story didn’t shy away from the awful parts of his childhood and the impacts on him as an adult. Likewise, I also appreciated that Adam continued to grow and learn that he was someone deserving and capable of love while accepting that his past was a part of him but didn’t have to define him. His strained relationships with his family members were moving, and I liked seeing him repair them over time despite how rocky the process continued to be. Just like real families, their dynamic was super messy and felt authentic.
Everyone had paths they hadn’t taken. That was life. You couldn’t do everything, read every book, pursue every career. You only got so much time. No one gets forever.
Vic was probably my favorite character. His story featured a great bi awakening, and I appreciated the time spent in this story processing his feelings and thoughts about coming to terms with his queerness. It felt like we got to know him so much better in this installment. Unfortunately, it came at the cost of some pretty awful things happening to him, but I liked getting into his head a little more. This book doubled down on the thing I hated most about the previous book in the series. It kept Vic and Adam apart for almost the entire story. That was a huge mistake, in my opinion. I get that the ending of book two necessitated they be apart for at least some of this story, but it went on far too long. I missed their dynamic that was at the heart of book one, and I hated that this (supposedly) last chance to see more of them together got wasted. Many of the other central characters from previous books felt sidelined, as well, which was disappointing.
He wanted to see all of Vic, and if that meant Vic seeing all of him, it would be worth it.
The plot of this story was probably the weakest of the three books. It was largely just a roadtrip through hell from two different perspectives filled with redundant conversations and internal monologue. Adam seemed to constantly rehash his problems with his brother even though it felt like that was largely resolved in book two. He also felt incredibly inconsistent dependent upon what the plot called for at the moment. Don’t even get me started on his Elvish friend because I have no idea what was going on with him. It seemed fascinating at first glance, but there was absolutely no background or explanation for how he was able to do the things he did. The hell dimension was interesting, but it got old after a while, and I don’t really think 60% of the book should have been devoted to the trip. Personally, I’m not a fan of the quest trope. So, I guess it isn’t super surprising I was a bit let down by it. I think the story would have been more interesting with a third perspective from Silver to see all the stuff going on in the Elvish court, which largely happened off the page and seemed really intriguing. The end wrapped things up well, though, and I was mostly satisfied with the answers and where all the characters ended up.
Don’t venerate it, but don’t bury it. Fix it, but don’t hide it. Hiding it would let it happen again.
I enjoyed the overall themes of this story quite a bit. It focused a lot on learning from the past so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes, especially in regard to breaking traumatic family cycles. I also really loved how this story illustrated that the people we see as villains are often driven by very human motivations that everyone can relate to, such as fear, anger, and/or ignorance. Despite making them relatable, the narrative never made excuses for them and instead used the main characters to show how one can overcome/harness those same motivating factors to do good. Finally, some time was spent reflecting on dreams and ‘paths not taken’ in life. It highlighted the importance of the choices we make and the constraints those choices place on the limited nature of the time we have left to live.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and the series as a whole. It wasn’t my favorite outing of the trilogy (that would be book 2), but the quality of the writing did consistently improve with each book. I’ve never read anything quite like this, and I loved the way it captured the essence of being queer in a rural area. Therefore, I rate this book (and series) 4 out of 5 stars.