Vessel - Sarah Beth Durst

I’m going to get straight to the point with this one.

I loved everything about this book except for the ending and some random moments of flat drag, very fleetingly dispersed throughout the story. There were some chapters that seemed out of place and some chapters that could have used some sprucing up -- but these were fairly few.

Now, the ending… I’m not sure how I really feel about the ending. In a way, it was satisfying and conclusive. On the other hand, it also feels a bit lacking. Mainly it was the last 20% of lead-in into the ending that had me a little disappointed: 1) I started getting impatient because the rest of the story felt like it was dragging on towards that coveted ending I was seeking; 2) I knew that, despite the dragging monotony, these moments were significant to the rest of the story and thus I needed to hang on, hoping to be rewarded with an uber, awesome destination.

And yet, I’m still conflicted as to whether or not I was satisfied with the ending. I don’t know if this strange feeling of empty disappointment is due to the book and its beautiful world coming to an end, or because there are still some things I felt the book hadn’t addressed yet. Or was it that there were some aspects of the story I would have liked to have changed? I don’t know.

Despite that, Vessel is an extremely well-written book with beautifully created characters and an amazingly vast, magical world. Typically, it takes a lot of terminology and world-building to come to a point where you can see the world through your own eyes, know that it is still much larger than what it encompassed in the present story, and NOT be overwhelmed by its presence. In fact, I think part of my emptiness is knowing that there isn’t another story set in this world -- with its whimsical tales and legends, its lovely cultures and peoples, and the knowledge that there is still so much more to discover -- because Vessel is one of those rare stand-alone stories in YA fiction. In this case, I don’t think I would mind seeing another story written in the setting of Liyana’s desert people world or taking place in the Crescent Kingdom.

I love that the characters take the time to share stories of their peoples with one another -- a tradition ingrained in their cultures, I believe -- even though everyone already seems to know all the creation stories. But with these, the history of the world is built with fairly strong pillars to stand on, creating a vivid and detailed backdrop for the story as it takes place.

It sure beats reading a textbook style information dump to tell you how the cultures and the peoples came to be.

I really don’t have much else to say about this book outside of heaping praises on how well the characters were created. And sometimes I run out of words unless I keep repeating myself.

Liyana is strong, resourceful, and typical heroine creation (with a slight touch of strange sense of humor) who is destined to save the world. Was there ever any doubt that she would be different than the other vessels used to house the gods and goddesses? In her case, I found the turn of events at each bend predictable and all of her developments unsurprising. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy following her character through each event and each obstacle.

This was an adventure I was very glad to be a part of. (Oooh, adventures! Gotta love ‘em! I always love a good adventure!)

As each member of our ragtag hero group got together, the adventure just continued to become more and more exciting. Fennik was the ever present, stubborn warrior boy; Pia was the dreamy princess with her otherworldly ideals; Raan… was crass, rude, blunt, honest… she was something else. And despite being wary about their inclusion into the party, I ended up loving each and every one of them despite their flaws.

Korbyn is a character I can’t wrap my head around. Maybe I’m not supposed to really understand him since he is a god after all. I liked him for the omnipotent character he represented in this haphazard group of adventurers because he was the lead and he was the one who knew what was going on. He was the one with the magic and the knowledge. He was the one to defer to when shit hits the fan. Never once did I even suspect that he was a reluctant hero and was really just as clueless as the vessels he lead to the end destination.

There are moments of complicated romantic polygonal happenings towards the end, but the romance in this book was pretty back-seat when compared with the rest of the story. I mean, true, the whole while Liyana is in instalove with Korbyn despite him already being in love with the goddess Bayla who will inhabit Liyana’s body after displacing Liyana’s soul; and this convoluted love story hangs around as the elephant in the room (or desert, take your pick) throughout the journey, but it doesn’t seem to take up much space. I don’t think that the romance aspect of the story was handled all that well towards the build up to the end, even if I think that I’m satisfied with the resolution of the love story when you think about things on a more logical sense; but it doesn’t really matter much in the long run.

Though I would have liked for the Emperor Jarlath to have had more of a presence as a person rather than just some Emperor (with a capital ‘E’) lurking in the shadows without a real identity aside from being the almost main antagonist. His appearance at random chapters already tells you everything you need to know about what our heroes need to do. But whether or as a main villain or a potential love interest, I feel like the Emperor wasn’t developed properly for me to feel the significance of his presence in Liyana’s life.

All-in-all, the book was very enjoyable; and I must admit, I haven’t felt this conflicted and I haven’t had this strange empty void after finishing a book in a long time now.





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