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Beth Durst, Sarah: Vessel

Vessel (2012)
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 424 (hardcover)
Series: Stand Alone

Liyana has trained hercentire life to be the vessel of a goddess. She will dance and summon herctribe's deity, who will inhabit Liyana's body and use magic to bringcrain to the desert. But when the dance ends, Liyana is still there. Herctribe 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.


Why I Read It: The gorgeous cover caught my eye when it was initially revealed. Then the great reviews started pouring in and I was intrigued enough to buy it.

I'm just going to go out and say it: this is one of my favourite books of 2013. "But isn't it a little early to be deciding your favourite books of 2013?" you may ask. And the answer would be, well, yes. BUT, this book is so good that come the end of this year, I think it'll still be in my Top Ten. I really, really do.

This is one of the most original fantasy worlds I have ever read. The harsh desert setting was front-and-center (by the way, this whole Fantasies in the Desert thing? I hope this is something that doesn't go away for awhile, I love it) and was almost a character in and of itself. The lore of the Desert People is revealed bit by bit to the reader in a really smart way too, supplying readers with extra world-building to bring the setting to life, but managed to do so without info-dumping at all. The fact that Durst was able to do this in a single-volume Fantasy story kinda blows my mind too.

The plot is structured like a traditional Fantasy Quest -- sort of. Liyanna and Korbyn embark on a quest to gather all the Vessels from the other clans, and it is this aspect of the plot that is familiar to Fantasies. But it is the revelations made throughout this quest that set it apart from the norm: faith is questioned and different facest of the truth of the lore and history that the Desert People have been taught is tested. The ending also took a decidedly different turn than I thought it would. Actually, I had no idea how the story could end, which is one of the reasons I kept reading. I really had no idea how Durst would bring everything together into a cohesive and satisfying conclusion. Thankfully it delivers, and it delivers in spades. It's epic, it brings up hard questions and doesn't give easy answers, and not threads are left dangling.

The characters were just as developed as the world they populate. Liyana, while she does briefly despair when her destiny is wrenched from her grasp, is an incredibly capable young woman. The chemistry between her and Korbyn was also evident in their interactions and I loved reading their developing friendship/romantic relationship (which ended up being quite unconventional, but I don't want to reveal too much more for fear of spoilers). The other vessels just have the page-time to get as much development, but I appreciated how Durst made them all different and distinct, most notably in how they were treated in their tribes and their position on faith and religion. Initially, while I appreciated this from a logical perspective, I didn't think I could ever become emotionally invested, especially since the little bit we get to of these characters isn't the most flattering, perse. But later events in the plot made me realize how attached I actually had become to all the characters, which was a pleasant surprise. The character of the emperor, who makes periodic appearances throughout the story and then plays a big role at the end gets the least amount of development, but despite that I found myself liking his character as well.

Final Verdict: I'm already 99% sure this is going to be one of my favourite reads of 2013 despite how early in the year it still is. This was one of the most original Fantasy novels I've read in awhile, from the setting (arid, harsh desert), to the lore (gods using humans as physical vessels), I loved absolutely everything about this. It was all well developed and Durst managed to cover all her bases despite this being a stand-alone (something you don't see in Fantasy, especially of the more Epic variety like this, very often.) The characters were as equally developed as the world and I found myself loving them all, even when they weren't the most likable people. The ending is epic and I am in awe at how Durst was able to bring everything together so well. Needless to say, I'm going to be checking out more of Durst's work and I highly recommend this 2012 title.

Comments

intoyourlungs
Feb. 25th, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)
I think you'd really like this one! I'm super pumped that it's been nominated for the Andre Norton Award. :)

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