Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst. Liyana is a sixteen-year-old girl and she knows the exact hour she is going to die. She and her clan, the Goat Clan, live a harsh existence in the desert. Every hundred years, the gods of the various desert clans inhabit a vessel in each clan to share their magic and help their clans prosper. Liyana is the vessel for her clan. She has spent her life preparing for the day when Bayla’s soul would come from the Dreaming and Liyana’s soul would leave her body forever. Liyana doesn’t want to leave her family, but for the good of her clan, she is willing to die. So the magician chants, Liyana dances, and Bayla does not come. Devastated, Liyana is abandoned by her clan for her perceived failure. Left alone with meager supplies, Liyana has no idea what to do. Until the trickster god of the Raven Clan, inhabiting his vessel, walks into her tent. Korbyn tells Liyana that five gods have been trapped false vessels but with her help they can be freed and the clans saved. Liyana and Korbyn embark on a perilous journey across the desert to find the other failed vessels and to free the gods. Will they be eaten by sandwolves? Will they be able to find the gods? Will Liyana, granted time she’d never though she’d have, still be a willing sacrifice?
Sarah Beth Durst creates a vivid world, populated with interesting, real characters. Liyana is determined, practical, strong willed, and brave, without ever straying into Mary Sue territory. She’s conflicted and afraid, stumbling her way down the past she thinks is the right one. Korbyn, the trickster god, is by her side, using his magic to ease the way through the desert and his stories and laughter to ease his way into her heart. When the rest of the supporting cast starts to show up, they’re well rounded and engaging. And engaging characters are important, because most of the action in this book takes place in the last third. But though the build up is slow, the time spent grounding the characters and allowing you to think about the implications of everything that’s going on is more than welcome, it’s delightful.
This book was a interesting, compelling, sometimes funny read. The characters draw you in until the action gets going and then the action whips you along to the (emotionally satisfying) end. I do wish there had been less descriptions of everybody as “perfect” and “beautiful” and there were a couple of occasions where the dialog rang false to the setting/time period but these are minor, minor quibbles in an otherwise lovely book.