Tags: young adult, fantasy, magic, desert, POC
Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. She will dance and summon her tribe's deity, who will inhabit Liyana's body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Her tribe is furious--and sure that it is Liyana's fault. Abandoned by her tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.
Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. The desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.
The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice--she must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate--or a human girl can muster some magic of her own. [summary from Goodreads]
I wanted this to be AMAZING. Because it’s Sarah Beth Durst. And there’s a stunning Asian model on the cover. But VESSEL didn’t blow me out of the water, though it was still a fine and unique fantasy geared more towards younger fantasy fans rather than jaded, crotchety SFF readers with high demands for world-building, plot, and characterization (a.k.a. me).
Right out of the gate, VESSEL stands a head above others of its ilk because of its protagonist, Liyana. With her slightly snarky sense of humor, especially when she’s with family, Liyana drew me to her immediately…which helped through the rougher periods of the book, when the features that often drag down a quest-based plot—new characters introduced much too quickly to fully capture readers’ support, a whiplash-inducing quick pace that makes it more difficult for readers like me to remain invested in the story—reared their heads.
As with one of Durst's previous books, Enchanted Ivy, in VESSEL, I sometimes found that I had difficulty keeping the thread of what was going on. Didn’t they just arrive in Place B, and why do they have to move on to Place C so quickly? Weren’t he and she fighting only a few pages ago? The constant barrage of questions going on in my head as I struggled to figure out which of the many minor characters introduced were truly significant, what romance to focus on, which interactions were actually important to the overall plot, really took me out of the story, so that at the end of this swashbuckling desert magic tale I closed the book with a little, “Huh.” It was a decent enough read for me, but several months on from when I read the book, I’m not sure how much of it stayed with me at all.
Cover discussion: Do I even have to say anything? Do I really have to explain to you why I like--nay, love--this cover so much?
Margaret K. McElderry Books / Sept. 11, 2012 / Hardcover / 432pp. / $16.99
Review copy received from author and publisher. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to review it!