Sunday, December 30, 2012

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Liyana is the Vessel of the Goat Clan, the body that will become the home of their beloved goddess Bayla.  For years she has trained, keeping her body in perfect condition so that it will be a suitable vessel for their goddess, a body that is pure and unblemished.  But on the day of the ceremony that will free Liyana's soul from her body leaving the way open for Bayla, the goddess fails to appear and Liyana finds herself abandoned by her people as they search for a more suitable Vessel.  Left in the desert to die, Liyana instead finds herself in the company of the trickster god Korbyn, the first meeting on what will become an epic quest to find not only Bayla, but all the missing gods and goddesses of the desert.
The absence of the gods and goddesses has been noticed by some, and it is a race against time for Korbyn and Liyana to reach the other Vessels in time - because some of the clans may not be as kind as Liyana's was.  It is a dangerous time to be traveling, the sun is punishing, and the desert is struggling under the strain of a great drought that is also wreaking havoc on the Empire that shares a border with the desert people.  It is up to the Vessels to find their gods and goddesses, to release them into the world so they can use their magic to breath life and water back into the desert.  But there is an evil force at work, one that wants to ensure the gods and goddesses never find their way back to the desert.
I loved Vessel from the start, it has a richness and depth that you feel from the first words, and the main character of Liyana is right up there with some of the toughest and most believable heroines.  She is not perfect, she is not immortal, she is a girl who feels the plight of her clan and all the people of the desert - but she is also a young woman who doesn't want to die just so a goddess can have her body, even if it means the salvation of her people.  The other characters round out the story, providing balance and a sense of wholeness that would be missing if the story was just about Liyana - the story is about them all, and at times each character has their own moments in the spotlight (even if it may only be for a short time). 
The world building here is very detailed, but Durst doesn't bury you under a mountain of detail at the beginning of the story, you learn more about the world as you go along.  It really feels like a traditional story that has been told around a fire for generations, a tale that has maybe grown a little with each retelling.  The story almost has a life of its own at times, and the ending packs a punch that you do not expect.  There is just the right amount of love, adventure, betrayal, danger, and magic to keep the tension and pace moving in this addictive read.  Once I started I didn't want to stop, and the ending was just wow - I now really want to read the other books by this author to see if they meet the same high standard. 
I have said this a few times already this year, but this is one of my favourite books of 2012 and highly recommend people try it - and that includes the adults out there.  An absorbing read where you really find yourself cheering on the team when things are going well, mourning with them when things go wrong, and cursing the bad guy when you find out who it is.
If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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