Monday, July 22, 2019

We Set the Dark on Fire

We Set the Dark on Fire. Tehlor Kay Mejia. 2019. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In the beginning, there were two brother-gods: the God of Salt and the God of Sun.

Premise/plot: The book is set in the fictional island-world of Medio. In this culture, every man--or at least every man of rank--has two wives.

Dani, our heroine, has spent years training to be a Primera--a first wife. She won't be her husband's only wife, but she will be his equal, his helpmate. She'll manage his household, and keep things running smoothly. When she graduates she'll be fulfilling her parents' dream and making all their sacrifices worth it. But is it what she really wants? Maybe, maybe not. Dani's country is just as unsettled and out of sorts as her heart and mind. Political unrest has been growing and building--mainly concerning the nation's borders and those seeking to cross. Dani's would-be husband is a wealthy politician--the son of a wealthy politician. She'll take her husband's status and shed forever hers--which is for the best, right? But if it's right, why does it feel so wrong?

On the day she marries Mateo Garcia, he marries his Segunda (second wife) as well. Her name is Carmen. The two young women have been training at the same school for years. Segundas have an entirely different role within the family. They are for heart, passion, and childbearing. Dani worries that Carmen--who has sometimes bullied her in the past--will make life difficult for her.

She enters into the marriage uneasy...and her intuition is correct...there will be nothing predictable about it.

My thoughts: The prologue was beautifully written. It made it sound like there would be at least some mythological substance, some spirituality to the world-building. In the first few chapters, Dani alludes to the fact that her gods--the gods of her family--are not those of Medio. But this thread tends to not go anywhere or serve a purpose. Though the prologue makes you think its about gods in conflict with one another--sibling rivalry--the book isn't really.

I was drawn into this one from the prologue and the first chapter or two. Dani, our narrator, has a tough decision to make. Will she continue living a lie just because her parents want her to have a better life? Will she continue living that lie out of self-preservation? Will her secret come out? (The secret is about where she was born--what side of the border she was born on and the sacrifices her parents made to falsify her documents.) How does she feel about the border? about the racism? about the violence? about politics?

Medio. The culture isn't really explored as fully as I had hoped. The more I read, the shallower it felt to me. It just felt undeveloped.

It is definitely action-driven and not character-driven. I felt most of the characters--with the exception of Carmen and Dani--were incredibly flat and insubstantial. The action wasn't particularly satisfying--to me. The book seemed to digress from being a political thriller with SPIES to being about two women who make out a lot.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Online Reputation Management said...

uhhh this was SO SO GOOD!! I expected it to be really good because so many people I trust have been raving about this book, but it still managed to exceed my expectations. Wow

puregusto said...

Ow! My heart! That ending and that f/f romance was so damn good and hit me in the damn feels!