While I try to keep up with some of the latest books, I read all over the place including visiting older books. Vessel is a YA fantasy by Sarah Beth Durst and is an older book, by which I mean it’s from 2012. This book is a desert fantasy where religion plays a big role in the characters and plot. I see a lot of people hunting for non-European fantasy, and if that includes you I recommend this book. I love stories where a character is expected to sacrifice their self for their religion or other purpose only for them to fight that expectation. So this book was right up my alley.
Let’s get to what it’s about. Liyana is meant to be a vessel for her goddess, but when she doesn’t come Liyana finds herself on a journey to save the deities and her people. This story explores the role religion has for Liyana’s people as well Liyana’s changing feelings about the role laid out for her. You see when Liyana’s goddess comes, Liyana is meant to die. But once she starts to fall in love she isn’t so ready to sacrifice herself. However saving her people comes first.
The world building of this book stood out to me in a great way. Little stories about the religion get told throughout and it made the world and religion feel well thought out and immersive. I enjoyed the cast of characters too. No two characters felt the same and the different views they carried about being a vessel gave readers multiple viewpoints of the religion. Other vessels helped offset Liyana’s trusting nature of the deities. The exploration of the different clans gave a wider picture of the world that wasn’t confined to Liyana’s clan without feeling overwhelming.
I admit I would have liked to learn more about the emperor. His sudden interest in Liyana and kindness felt too unrealistic at times, but I enjoyed the path their relationship took. I also wanted to better understand where Liyana stood with the Raven god at the end. However the strengths of this book by far outshone the few weaknesses. The world and religion of this book won’t be easily forgotten.
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.