Monday, December 17, 2012

Arty -- Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Hey guys.  Sorry about the delays.  I've been all over the place lately.  And I've been reading almost nothing.  But today I get to review something that really makes me happy.

Actually, in general, Sarah Beth Durst tends to make me happy.  She renews my faith in the ability of humanity to write decent YA fantasy/romance.  And not just decent - really, really good.

The premise is simple.  Liyana has been chosen as the vessel for her tribe's goddess, who needs to come to the physical world to remedy the drought that's been plaguing their nomadic desert world.  But despite a flawless ceremony, Bayla the goddess doesn't come. 

Outcast as 'imperfect' and 'unworthy,' Liyana thinks she'll die in the harsh, dying desert.  But that's before she meets Korban - an actual god, already in his vessel.  Korban is the desert tribes' trickster god, the raven always tricking the gods in and out of things.  He tells Liyana that five of the desert gods have been stolen, godnapped for presumably nefarious purposes.  And that if they don't rescue them... the desert could very well die.

So off they go on their quest to save the gods.  But on the way, Liyana gets to learn a lot about the way the deities work - and she begins to question if she really wants to give into them at all.

Characters first.  Liyana was actually a pretty interesting heroine.  Nothing special - no Sophie Hatter or Liesel Meminger - but she didn't make me want to smack her over the head or anything.  And, while we did get the whole 'she's gorgeous and she's gifted' thing, it felt... organic, usually.  Not tacked on just to make Liyana likable.

But, if we're being honest, Korban is the best thing about the book.  Trickster gods are a weakness with me, and who doesn't like ravens?  I liked how he was suitably mischievous while still maintaining a godlike presence.  He wasn't a tumbling jester idiot.  He was, first and foremost, a god - just a god of trickery. 

I really want to talk about my second-favorite character - possibly my first, seeing as how he's a bit more original and intriguing than Korban - but I don't want to give anything away.  Just... those chapters from a different POV than Liyana's?  They get better.  A whole lot better.

There were times when the plot felt drifty, aimless, and there were times when I had to wonder what on earth Durst would do to fill the next two hundred pages.  But she always delivered - there was almost always just enough foreshadowing, and every seemingly random addition had its place.

The villain... well, I was honestly a bit disappointed in the villain.  Everything else was so magnificent, and then... I just wasn't scared.  At all.  Not of him.  There just wasn't enough about the villain to really feel anything for him.  His army of monsters was three times as scary as he was.  If he had just been more developed, then it would have been better; as it was, he was the worst part of the book.

But that army of monsters?  Pretty awesome.  Not perfect or horrifying by any means, but still - powerful enough to cast doubt.  Doubts that weren't necessarily avoided in the end.  The end, I say, which was this close to perfection.  It gave me swirly, happy feelings - the kind of swirly, happy feelings that make you think, "This should have a sequel - no, it shouldn't - but what happens next?! - but that's the beauty of it!"  Et cetera.

(And can I mention the love triangle that ACTUALLY WORKED.  A toast to Sarah Beth Durst.)

Another book I have to heartily recommend to those who are fans of this genre or even to those who aren't, since it basically bucks every negative cliché about the YA Paranormal/Fantasy Romance genre.  Cheers.

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