Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book Review: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Publication: Margaret K. McElderry Books (September 11, 2012)

Description: In a desert world of sandstorms and sand-wolves, a teen girl must defy the gods to save her tribe in this mystical, atmospheric tale from the author of Drink, Slay, Love.

Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. The goddess will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But Liyana’s goddess never comes. Abandoned by her angry 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. For 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.

My Thoughts: What an exciting adventure! I couldn't put it down. This high fantasy story has a sort of ordinary girl who has to save her world. Liyana is an ordinary desert girl except that she has been chosen to sacrifice her life so that her body can be a vessel for the god who watches over her people. She is resigned to her fate and accepts it because of the love she feels for her people. But after completing the ceremony, her god does not come. She is cast out by her clan because they believe that she was not a worthy vessel. But her family does leave her supplies to help her survive in the harsh desert. Her younger brother even leaves the knife made from the scale of a sky serpent which is her family's great treasure. 

Liyana doesn't know what to do or if she will even be able to survive alone in a desert filled with sandstorms and the sand wolves who inhabit them when out of the storm comes a young man. The young man is Korbyn who is the trickster god and who is inhabiting a vessel. He tells her that someone has kidnapped five of the gods including hers and that he needs her help to free them. Because of her sincere devotion to her god Bayla and her fascination with Korbyn she agrees. The two of them travel together to find the other vessels of the kidnapped gods. Along the way they share stories and become friends. Korbyn is the lover of her god Bayla and Liyana feels guilty for having feelings for him - feelings that Korbyn might be returning. 

They trace the problem to the Emperor of the Crescent Empire or, at least, to a magician in his court. The empire is dealing with the same drought that is plaguing the desert dwellers and his solution is to conquer them and find a way into the forbidden mountain to reach a lake he has seen in his dreams. The Emperor is not a bad man. He is trying to do what is best for his people. He doesn't see any other hope for them.

It is up to Liyana who is massively unusual in that she didn't die when her god was freed from captivity. They are sharing her body and must find a way to work together for the best good of all of the people. Liyana becomes the leader of a coalition of gods that she had to go to the Dreaming to find as they battle the wrong-headed magician, the sky serpents who are guarding the magical lake, and try to prevent the desert dwellers and the Emperor's army from destroying each other. 

This story has magic and epic battles but it also has very personal moments of love and friendship. It was an excellent story that I look forward to sharing with my students.

Favorite Quote:
Liyana heard Korbyn sigh. "For the first time in my existence, I tell the truth, and I'm greeted with lack of belief. This is the universe laughing at me."
I received a finished copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your copy here.

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