Vessel - Sarah Beth Durst

I came across this title on i09 and decided to check it out from the library. What a refreshing read in teen fiction! It appears to be a stand-alone, for one thing, it’s based in non-Western mythos, and the characters are POC! (I just used exclamation points, twice! That’s how excited I am.) I was just bitching about the lack of all of this in epic fantasy on Kate Elliot’s livejournal page. While I don’t think Durst’s book qualifies as epic fantasy, it does breathe some much needed new life into teen fantasy (while the cover does show a girl in a corset, which doesn’t seem too logical for a member of a desert tribe, at least it’s not a girl in a prom dress).


Vessel tells the story of Liyanna, a young woman who has been divinely chosen to be the vessel for her tribe’s goddess, Bayla. When Bayla doesn’t fill her vessel, Liyanna is cast out and left on her own, until (of course) a handsome dude walks in from a dust storm. Korbyn is the vessel for the trickster god and he has come on a mission to find all of the vessels whose gods did not come to them. Thus begins the main action and quest of the novel. Each tribe presents a new challenge, and each unfulfilled vessel a new voice to the cast. Unfortunately, one of the last is one of the best, and we don’t get to hear her for very long. After collecting all five of the vessels, the group sets out to hunt down the missing gods and goddesses. Eventually, a Host-like (I think, if I understand the premise of that book right (no, I have NOT read it)) love triangle develops and the resolution of that is also the resolution of the novel.


The freshness of the novel and its mythology (which was coherent, cognent, and compelling) may have overshadowed some of its defects while reading it. Chief among these are the rapid pace of the plot and the character development. The latter was adequate, but it could have been much better and in turn made this a much deeper novel than it was. Durst’s writing was good, even lovely at times, and her depictions of the desert put me in mind of Nnendi Okorafor (if you haven’t read her yet, WTFN?). While Durst aspired to that level of story-telling, she fell short, mainly because she seemed to focus more on plot than on her characters. This is odd, since her plot is to collect characters, essentially.On the whole, I really enjoyed Vessel and would highly recommend it if you’re a bit tired of the normal teen fantasy fare.