by Sarah Beth Durst
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.
I had read some semi-negative reviews before tackling Vessel, and I was a little hesitant to begin the novel. A little worried, if you will, that I would abandon it mid-way, because the premise seemed so promising.
A story about deities and the vessels that gave their lives for them, a story about faith in higher powers and in oneself. A story about learning to live when one knows they are about to die.
I mean, it had the makings of such a powerful story.
And I found that I was worried for nothing. It was more gripping than I had imagined, and far less preachy.
It was hard not to love Liyana from the very beginning, when she thinks she is going to die, but she is prepared for it, because it means the survival of her family and her people. She is a sympathetic character, every step of the way. My heart hurt for her when her people exiled her. In her pain was my pain, in her joy (when she realised her family had defied orders to fight for her survival) was my joy.
Her relationships with every other character is the cornerstone of the novel. Not just her relationship with the trickster god, though I did feel for her when she began to develop feelings for him knowing it was futile – but also with the other vessels and with the emperor and even with the other deities. This is a girl who had given up the idea of ever having a life because she had a higher calling – and now she was forging all these different connections knowing that soon, she would have to give them up.
It was heartbreaking as well as heartwarming. Her strength is something that I admire.
The idea that the deities came every century or so to live among the clans that worship them was intriguing. There was no doubt through all the stories told throughout the novel that the deities loved their people. However, the initial meetings with these deities left much to be desired. Like Liyana, I was left somewhat disillusioned by these all powerful beings. Young and innocent lives were being sacrificed for seemingly entitled entities. They did not seem to see beyond their own self, their own lives and purposes to the lights they were extinguishing.
But the deities proved capable of self-actualisation and growth, coming to realise that the world was changing, and the people with it, and they needed to change as well. It was interesting to see everyone, from Liyana to the deities to the emperor to the other vessels, evolve throughout the story into better versions of themselves.
I have to admit, I empathised with the emperor from his first appearance. Even when it was thought that he was a villain, I still liked him. There was just something about him…
All in all, I would have to say Sarah created an extremely interesting world, with enigmatic characters and a diverse scope, showing just how far and in how many different ways people are willing to go for their survival. It is very realistic that human beings and most other living creature fight for their lives when they think they are on the brink of extinction, and are capable of going to all sorts of lengths.
It was a good read, and I would not mind going back to read it all over again.