Book Review: BENEATH THE SHADOW DARK by Melissa Polk

I am friends with the author, which has not affected my opinions.

Title in white below a shilloutette surrounded by mushrooms
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 3 stars
Series: standalone


Only in a land of darkness would they find their way. But it is no easy thing to serve a dark god.

On a desert planet, the faithful inhabitants of the surface worship a goddess who grants them prosperity, as well as the unrelenting light of a sun that never sets. But beneath them, an eons old struggle for power rages between her banished siblings.

When tragedy strikes Jos’ family, they are cast out of their home and deemed unworthy of the goddess’ light. Mad with grief, Jos invokes the long forgotten gods of the dark—and receives an answer. After bargaining their soul to restore their family’s honor, Jos is led into the subterranean world of the Shadow Dark by an emissary of the dark god, who is as mysterious as he is alluring.

Among the wonders and curiosities of the dark underworld, Jos discovers many unexpected things: rebellion, friendship, purpose, and a love that struggles to survive a divine war. Jos becomes irrevocably tangled in the machinations of deities as their every choice could alter the tenuous balance of the entire planet.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


The story and premise are not the sort I would naturally pick up, as they don’t align with my tastes. For thoughts on the story, I’d suggest reading reviews from others who typically read this type of story as those will have more understanding of the sub-genre. Instead, I want to talk about the world, which is the bit I really enjoyed.

There are two parts to the world. As the cover and title suggest, most of the book is set in the underground, dark world, but it’s not the typical underground world most of us are used to in fiction. There’s mining and a small train-like network, plus infrastructure like bridges made from living plants.

It’s full of enormous caverns, large enough to have weather systems. The clouds create their own lights, in addition to some of the plants and animals. These help the world to have a variety of life not usually seen in underground worlds.

Though there are mushrooms (as the cover hints), pale sickly fungi are not the only things found down below. There are grasses and all manner of creatures, including birds and giant cats. No trees, though there are giant mushrooms that act a bit like trees and create lumber.

By contrast, there’s a desert world above, which has a combination of wild west and slightly-futuristic world feel to it. I imagine old clapperboards, but steeped in lore of other creatures in the stars (the world has no interstellar technology, but a mythology that involves other planets.) Plus the vape bars and the dusty city on the edge of the light world has a very seedy feel.

If you enjoy romances with dark, trickster gods, then this is a read for you, with a bonus fun world.

Read my reviews of other books by Melissa Polk:

Bones of the Gods:


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