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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Title: Vessel
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: September 11 2012
Publishing House: McElderry Books
ISBN: 9781442423763
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


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 goddess has not come. 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 desert 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 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 so her tribe can live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate - or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Vessel is a beautifully crafted book filled with vivid imagery and fascinating lore combined with an intriguing plot that did not fail to draw me in. Set in a stark desert landscape, we are first introduced to Liyana, vessel of the Goat Clan. She has lived all her life knowing that one day she must die so her goddess can inhabit her body and bring rain to her people. So she dances till her feet hurt and her muscles are sore, dances till she can dance no more and yet her goddess does not answer. Her tribe, deeming her an unworthy vessel, abandons her in the desert to die. Then the trickster god Korbyn, ensconced in his vessel, appears out of the sands in search of her and tells her that her goddess and five others have been captured. They have to search for the other vessels and find those responsible for imprisoning their deities.

The world-building in Vessel is beautiful. The author manages to capture the stark desert landscape and the harsh conditions that the desert tribes live in perfectly. I like the way the author weaves the tribe's legends throughout the story to give readers a feel for the lore in a way that doesn't entail an info-dump. While I had no issues with the world-building, I did have a problem with the pacing. The first half of the book started out slow and consisted of them traveling to the various tribes in search of the other vessels. Korbyn basically repeats the same spiel, in different variations, over and over again - the only differences were how said vessels accepted the news and their different reactions to it.

I found the characters in Vessel somewhat lacking. Don't get me wrong, I did find them interesting - it's just that I couldn't really connect with any of them. While I admit that Liyana is definitely a strong and practical heroine, I wish the author gave her more character. I wanted to feel Liyana's struggle for survival when her clan abandoned her; I wanted to see more of her conflicted feelings for Korbyn. I wanted to see how it would be like to live your whole life knowing that one day you would have to give way for a goddess in order to save your clan. Yet Liyana, after being confronted with numerous hardships and varying perspectives still stayed accepting of her fate. I wanted to see her fight to liveKorbyn, on the other hand, is a strange being. Despite being touted as a trickster god, I didn't exactly get that mischievous, quirky, playful vibe from him. Well yes, the stories he told to showcase his aptitude in trickery were interesting but I could not see this in his interactions with Liyana although those stories did provide a sort of background on the gods and goddesses. What I did like about Korbyn though, was his willingness to accept that maybe, just maybe, what they were doing to the vessels - stealing their bodies - was not exactly morally correct, unlike the other deities who had a steadfast belief that they had rights to said body.

The secondary characters in the book fared no better, they were nothing more but people so dedicated to fulfilling their duties as vessels, or in Raan's case NOT fulfilling her duties, and that's just about all they were. I wanted to get to know the characters and maybe a look into their different backgrounds would have provided me with that information. Sadly, all they were were men and women who were nothing more but plot devices and I was more or less indifferent to them. 

Now I do like a little romance in my stories sometimes, but I just want to say that the romance in Vessel was quite... convenient at the end. I'm not going to spoil anything and I would just like to add that the romance does not play that huge of a part in the story, which is always a good thing, in my opinion. 

Vessel is overall a nice book. The characters weren't the best - I think that they could have been done better- and the pacing was a bit slow, but the world-building was quite beautiful and the myths and the desert tribes' stories and lore are enthralling. It's not exactly the best fantasy book out there, but it does have a certain depth to it that, if expounded upon, would make it an amazing, difficult-to-put-down read. 



  1. Slow pacing is my no. 1 enemy! Character development is my no. 2 enemy. I will probably pass on this. The cover is astonishingly gorgeous. Thanks for your informative review.

    1. Yes, the cover is quite pretty. Thank you for dropping by!