Clarisse (The Bookcase Diaries)'s Reviews > Vessel

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
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Also found on my book blog.

I admit I enjoyed the uniqueness of this one although it left me with some pretty mixed feelings about how things ended.

The concept: The story is about the desert people and their one particular tradition of preparing a "vessel" for their deities to dwell in once every century. Once chosen, the vessel relinquishes all his/her rights to living and is basically kept in pristine condition until the time he/she performs the summoning ceremony; pulling the gods from a place called The Dreaming and welcoming the gods into their bodies. Once the gods inhabit the vessels' bodies, they die-- because of course two souls couldn't possibly exist in one body. The reason why the people summon the deities is so that the gods will be able to work their magic in the mortal world and save their respective clans from the Great Drought. They are unable to do anything to affect the mortal world from The Dreaming unless they transfer their souls into a human body. Our main character, Liyana is one such Vessel for the Goat Clan. However, when she performed the ritual, her goddess Bayla does not come. Deemed an unfit Vessel, Liyana was left in the desert by her clan to die. Later we find out that the deities have actually been led astray and kidnapped, save for one-- Korbyn the trickster god. The only problem is how he will convince the other clans that this isn't one of his tricks.

I thought this whole vessel and soul-transferring thing was an extremely interesting and unique idea compared to the million other YA books out there. It is what really captured my attention in the first place. In fact it made me immediately go and buy the book. Can you just imagine if you were one of these vessels, would you so willingly give your life to save your clan, or would you want a chance to live your own life? (From the moment you are selected as a vessel, you cannot do anything to damage, injure, or scar your body because it has to be in perfect condition when your god inhabits it, so the argument of trying to "live" before the ceremonies are performed is not possible.) Is sacrificing the life of one person morally justifiable for as long as the consequences benefit the greater good? Aren't the gods merely using these vessels as tools so that the may experience what it's like to be human again, and at the side they help their clans since really, what other thing is there to do anyway? So many questions that were stirred in my brain by this.

The characters: Liyana is a stubborn and brave girl who wants nothing more than to save her desert people, and her actions throughout the book have always been geared towards that goal. At some point she began to have doubts as to whether or not she really wants to give up her physical body to a goddess and die but it was so fleeting. I wish I could've heard the part of her that wanted to live more loudly. This side of her should have been explored some more to establish her as a more dimensional character. The only character that felt human to me was Raan as she seemed to be the only one who had her own personal desires to live among the vessels. That's the natural human reaction.

Liyana is labeled as practical, but I would say the more appropriate word is that she has strong survival instincts. In most situations, she does what she feels she has to in order for her tribe to survive, and the girl can slash her way through sand-wolves with a small knife! On occasion, I feel like she is able to weather through everything thrown her way almost too perfectly. I wish I could've seen some sort of deeper struggle-- a hurdle that she at least finds a bit difficult to face. In this sense, maybe her character became way too strong in the writing. Liyana felt less flat whenever I read about her torment with regard to her feelings for Korbyn the trickster god (who by the way I wish was "trickier", but I guess no one can do it like Eugenides can). Korbyn's companionship as they traveled through the desert led convincingly into the two of them developing feelings for each other. The scenes of them together, trying to fight against what they feel (or giving into it), were pretty swoon-worthy.

There was a sort-of love triangle (technically a quadrilateral) by the end although I wasn't quite convinced about how it happened. The author took some time to introduce and build up the other guy's character to the readers so one could get a grasp of the kind of person he is, but I don't feel like Liyana spent enough time with him to "fall in love". I don't think I even knew enough about him to other than what the book tells me to have my own opinions about him. The chemistry between Liyana and Korbyn ran much deeper, and her relationship with the other (though the chemistry was also there to some extent) felt like something the author included out of convenience and to make sure everyone had a sort of "happy ending".

The source of my mixed feelings upon finishing this book comes from my inability to decide whether I'm satisfied with the ending or not. Some part of me isn't, because I felt like there was something missing from it. Some sort of interaction, a final word or gesture from the appropriate parties. But a part of me also feels like this is the ending that Liyana deserves.

As for the secondary characters, they were all unique albeit a bit lackluster. Sure they had their own set of personalities and beliefs, and occasionally they would have these philosophical arguments about whether or not the whole vessel thing was "right" or "wrong", but at the end of the day, none of them really gave me a lasting impression (except maybe Raan). The villain wasn't villainy enough either; and the gods, as you would expect, loved to assert their authority over mortals and each other so much that they kept squabbling away about petty things (I'm looking at you Oyri!). I did like how the gods were not painted as these all-powerful beings; rather, their magic was limited and took some effort and energies on their part to wield. Anytime they did anything particularly difficult, they would need some time to rest and recover before they could use magic again. This felt immensely realistic to me, because as souls of gods trapped in human bodies, they were subjected to limitations of the mortal world.

The execution: Durst wrote the beginning of the book rather well as she introduced us to the world of the desert, the clans and the kind of people within these clans. However, the second part of the book was a bit disappointing as she was unable to hold this imagery when she began introducing the Crecent Empire and how their big and mighty army had come to invade the desert. The army didn't feel nearly scary enough-- in fact the dessert monsters and storms were even scarier! While the author was able to paint the landscape of the desert more concretely, beyond the desert where the Crescent Empire lay was a big question mark. The Crescent Empire remained only a vague idea to me throughout rather than a kingdom.

I concede that a brilliant idea was used here, but there was so much more that the author could've done with it. There were some parts in the story the author could have played around with and pulled out a surprise from. Everything was resolved rather easily by Liyana because she was "resourceful" and "clever". There were some very nice scenes in the book though, especially between Liyana and Korbyn, but I can't help feeling that the author could've spun this into a story that could have blown my mind.

My rating: PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket. Although I did enjoy the book as a whole, there were a couple of lackluster aspects for me that I felt had so much potential to become something really good. Despite this, I'm rating this thinking about the general feeling this book gave me. I was initially thinking of giving it 3.5 stars, but the unique concept and the enjoyment that came with the experience of reading this fun little adventure lifted it into a 4. I'd be damned if I had to dissect every book I read seriously and nitpick the problems. I had fun reading this and I think anyone who picks this up will too, and that's the important part!
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Reading Progress

September 22, 2012 – Shelved
September 27, 2012 – Shelved as: fantasy
September 27, 2012 – Shelved as: cover-love
October 19, 2012 – Started Reading
October 21, 2012 –
page 10
2.36% "The first chapter really reminded me of that makeover scene in Disney's Mulan-- the one where the old ladies are singing, 'This is what you give me to work with? Well honey, I've seen worse!'"
October 22, 2012 –
page 95
22.41% "HOLY COW what just happened?! The way the moment was described was so good too. Really loving this!"
October 24, 2012 –
page 146
34.43% "This is the kind of book you want to read fast and take slow at the same time. I like Liyana a lot!"
October 25, 2012 –
page 230
54.25% "Who is this Emperor dude??? Oh the suspense!"
October 25, 2012 –
page 424
100.0% "Trying to sort out my feelings. @_@"
October 25, 2012 – Shelved as: girl-power
October 25, 2012 – Shelved as: general-mythology
October 25, 2012 – Finished Reading
October 26, 2012 – Shelved as: my-heart-went-pitter-patter

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