Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

From Goodreads: 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.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst is a slow fantasy that explores themes like sacrifice, destiny, faith and independence using an interesting premise. In Vessel, the people of the desert have a dreamwalk where their destiny is revealed to them. Those who are to become vessels have their lives irrevocably changed as their bodies no longer belong to them but to the deity associated with their nomad tribe. While their family and friends have normal responsibilities, vessels instead prepare for a day when their souls will be released from their body in a ritual that allows their deity to be summoned from the dreaming and inhabit the vessel’s body. The vessel’s sacrifice ensures their tribe’s survival for the next century as the god or goddess in a physical form can perform magic capable of bringing rain to the desert and increasing the tribe’s herds.

What I loved most about Vessel was the worldbuilding because Durst made it really easy to imagine the desert. Through Liyana’s eyes, the reader can see both the beauty of the desert as well as its dangers, real (e.g. scarcity of water, snakes, etc.) and fictional (e.g. sand wolves and salt worms). I also liked Durst’s incorporation of fables and creation myths since it added an extra layer to the story and solidified the worldbuilding.

Another thing that I liked was how the different vessels perceived their fate. At first, Liyana is accepting of her fate, but when Bayla doesn’t come and Liyana realizes that she can have a life, she becomes more hesitant at the thought of giving up her body. At the same time, Liyana knows that without her sacrifice, her tribe won’t survive. It was nice to see that struggle between individualism and altruism and contrast Liyana’s reactions with that of Pia, a blind singer completely dedicated to her deity, and Raan, who questions why she should have to die for her goddess. 

Vessel is by no means a flawless read, however. My main complaint about the novel is that the journey of Liyana and Korbyn as they go from tribe to tribe to collect the other vessels soon feels repetitive because it makes up quite a huge portion of the book. Also, I found the romance to be very weak – fortunately, it’s not a major component of the novel – and thought that the character of the emperor was a bit underdeveloped.

Vessel was released in 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry Books. 

Comments About the Cover: I think the cover is gorgeous and eye-catching. I also love that there’s no whitewashing.


  1. Aw, sorry you didn't love this one as much as I did, Z. I thought it was completely original and I thought the journey was more of a self-discovery thing instead of plot, but I definitely agree that the Emperor character was too underdeveloped for me too.

  2. It's always rough when a book is classed as a romance but lets down in that department. It frustrates me to no end. That said, it sounds like a pretty original story, and I'm glad there were elements that really worked for you! Great review :)

  3. Oh WOW, I'm totally digging your description of the concept and world building of this one! How cool. And unique! Even if it's not a perfect read, I can appreciate the originality of the premise. It really is a shame that the plot becomes a bit repetitive and the romance is lacklustre though because the world building would make this a winner otherwise! Really loved this review, Zahida!! So well described.

  4. Though I wish the romance was a bit stronger of course (or not there at all, I'd prefer that to a weak romance), overall this sounds like a really interesting world to spend some time in. I like too that she spent a lot of time making the world feel real, including the dangers of life in the desert. I'm keeping this one on the maybe pile because the concept is so fascinating, but I'm glad to know about the romance up front so my expectations in that department a bit lower. Awesome review Z!

  5. Although this wasn't perfect for you, I'm glad you enjoyed it overall. I haven't read anything by this author before, though I've heard plenty of great things. This book caught my interest last year, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet. I like the sound of the desert setting and am glad to hear the world-building is well done. Lovely review, Z! :)


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