The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water explores faith, sacrilege, and reverence in the midst of a silent war. Beginning slowly with a truly fantastic second half that ties everything together, make some room for this novella on your TBR.
The tone is very light and the story feels fun at first, laughing in the face of danger in a dark time. The dynamic of a tightly-knit group hesitantly absorbing a newcomer works really well. It’s short but it packs a lot of story and excellent character work into a small volume. As the reader becomes more comfortable with the characters the tone gets more serious. It's also possible that I missed some of the ways in which it was more serious from the start, and really I was getting more comfortable with the story and gradually realizing what it was doing. It lingered in some uncomfortable moments in a good way, a lot of the tension is due to interpersonal drama that is somewhere between joking and deadly at any moment. The focus gradually narrowed to being about two members of the group finding an equilibrium with one another while still managing the macguffin.
For the first third or so of the book I thought it was good, but I wasn't sure yet why a friend of mine had recommended it so highly. Then, just before the halfway mark, something clicked and the story went from pretty good to really amazing (I know exactly what did it, I just can't say because of spoilers). The second half is just so satisfying and this book is great. A quick read and a very good one.
CW for brief misgendering/deadnaming, sexism, massacre, death.