ARC Review – Dark Moon, Shallow Sea

Today I’m reviewing Dark Moon, Shallow Sea by David R. Slayton. I enjoyed Slayton’s urban fantasy Adam Binder series, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. Dark Moon, Shallow Sea will be available tomorrow, October 31, 2023.

Raef wants revenge on the knights who killed his goddess, the moon. Her death darkened the night sky, stopped the tides, and left the shades of the dead without a path to the underworld.

Seeking revenge, Raef breaks into the knights’ temple and opens a box, expecting to find gold and jewels among the bones. Instead, he finds a living man, Kinos, sleeping inside.

Raef steals Kinos.

As they run from the knights and grow closer, Raef thinks he’s found a friend, love, and perhaps a secret that may lead to his goddess’s return. If they can’t solve the mystery of Kinos’s imprisonment, the moon will never rise again and the world will drown in ghosts.

***Thank you to Blackstone Publishing for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I had such a great time reading Dark Moon, Shallow Sea that I finished it in less than 24 hours. The mix of the fast pace, approachable prose, and relatable characters just sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. The plot of this story was also a bit wild, with so many exciting reveals, twists, and turns.

I loved all of the fantasy elements and the world-building in Dark Moon, Shallow Sea. The world had an interesting history, with warring gods and demons, that slowly came to light over the course of the story. Nothing was really what it seemed to be in the beginning, and I enjoyed how surprised I was by how it all came together in the end. The creepy atmosphere of the setting made this a great spooky season read, and the use of the ghosts as raving hordes out for blood was chilling at times.

There were so many great themes in Dark Moon, Shallow Sea, but I’m only going to touch on a couple of my favorites. Faith was a huge one, especially as it relates to being faithful to one’s beliefs versus one’s church. The story also examined how propaganda can be used to re-write the narrative of history. It highlighted how authoritarians gain and maintain power through manipulation of the masses, including by co-opting faith/religion and the eradication of centers of learning and knowledge. Needless to say, there’s plenty of heavy-hitting material in this book, and the author uses fantasy elements and imagery/symbols to weave it all seamlessly into the story.

I enjoyed the stories of both main characters in Dark Moon, Shallow Sea, but Seth’s story spoke to me the most. I think many queer people of faith will find a part of themselves in his story. He experienced so much religious trauma and spent most of his life hating parts of himself because of it. I loved his journey of discovering that he doesn’t need to be perfect or just like everyone else to be good or faithful. I was impressed by his disillusionment with his church rather than with his god and his growth in faith despite everything he experienced. It was a beautiful character arc.

There were only a few nit-picky things that didn’t work for me in Dark Moon, Shallow Sea. While most of the reveals were fascinating, some of them felt like they came out of nowhere. I also thought the romance elements were a bit too rushed. The pace was fast, and it made the depth of their connections feel a little too developed for the amount of time spent together. Neither of these things should be a deal-breaker, though, because this was a really great story and a fascinating start to what promises to be another great series by Slayton.

Overall, Dark Moon, Shallow Sea was a great epic fantasy that had me hooked from beginning to end. I think fans of Tara Sim’s The Dark Gods series might like this series, too. They have a similar dark vibe with warring faiths, ghosts on a rampage, and the threat of demons. This story wasn’t quite as epic in scope, though, but it was much more fast-paced. All in all, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars, and I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel.

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