Saturday, August 10, 2013

YAck Attack: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

by Sarah Beth Durst
Published: September 11, 2012
Margaret K. McElderry

From Goodreads:
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.

Chachic: Has anyone started reading Vessel? I haven't had a chance to read it yet but I thought it would be a good idea to get the discussion going, in case anyone wants to share their thoughts.

Nicole: I've already read it and I'm a HUGE fan of the book - it has its problems, partly because I want all of Sarah's books to be trilogies because they'd actually be good, but I really enjoyed it. The setting reminds me a lot of the indie game JOURNEY if anybody's played it.

Chachic: I like that it's a standalone because I rarely see that in fantasy. A lot of the fantasy novels that I read are part of a series.

Nicole: Oh, the reason I love all of her books is that they are standalones. The problem is they're good enough that I would actually WANT more, as opposed to books I wish WERE standalones.

Chachic: Ah that's a good thing then. You can't get enough of the world she created in the book!

Donna: I'm about 100 pages in and I'm really enjoying it. I like the setting more than anything. It's so incredibly vivid.

Donna: I'm loving the world and the story, however I'm finding the writing just okay. It's weird. I have a very vivid image of what's going on in my head but the words aren't necessarily connected to that. I feel that Durst has an issue overstating names (something I recognize in my own writing where 'she' or 'her' would do just find and blend in far better than a name like Liyana repeated throughout a single paragraph) and using incredibly simple sentences for movement (a lot of 'She did this action.' going on without flourish). I don't think it detracts from the story because I am still loving it and I want to find out what happens but it is keeping me from LOVING it. WORDS would make it so much better. Right now it's just good.

Nicole:  I can agree with that - while I love Durst's writing, she has a strange ability to paint a picture I can see vividly without using WORDS.

Steph: I'm about 3/4 through now - absolutely loving Raan the drunk, she is a total charmer. All the vessels are great actually, all individual enough to be engaging whilst obviously sharing a common fate which I thought might be a problem earlier on.

Donna: I got to the "shit or get off the pot" part and I was pleasantly surprised. Durst didn't let her characters get off the pot. *slow clap*

Donna: I finished it and I liked it. Surprisingly conclusive for a fantasy, and a stand-alone fantasy at that. I thought the end-end was going to take a slightly different twist and I will admit, I was a little disappointed in Bayla's departure because I did like her but I don't know how the lake disappeared. Did Liyana zap it with all that magic she had? I missed that. Durst definitely tells a good story despite the words being merely meh. I think a good 1/4 of this book could have been cut with all the extraneous words she had in there that I would have thought were editing misses if they didn't occur constantly. But I was so engrossed in the story that a lot of times I simply filed past them, noted and moving on. I think this is a first for me. Usually writing that is less than the story detracts me from the story. Not to much here. It's refreshing.

Chachic: I'm sorry I haven't participated in the discussion. I just started reading this! Will read the comments when I'm done because I'm not sure if any spoilers are mentioned within the thread.

Heidi: Vessel won the Mythopoeic Award for Children's Literature! I'm pretty happy about that. Honestly, when I read this one I was so completely engrossed in the story that I didn't even notice any potential flaws in how it was being told, though I've seen that reaction a lot so the words must be there and I was too sucked in to even notice. I loved that this one was unpredictable for me. I loved the romance(s) and the acknowledgement that there are different types of love, and that good/bad depends so largely on your standpoint. I'm a big fan of stories where the bad guy isn't quite who or what you think, and I really enjoyed all of the vessels.

Image from Sarah Beth Durst's blog

Steph: I think that's a really interesting point about the different types of love, especially the love for family that made the Vessels so willing to accept their fate. A subtle touch on indoctrination of children which I liked. I could have done with a little more clarity pre- battle when the Vessels became their Gods en mass, everything just became a little muddled - I felt the author was in too much of a hurry to get to the fighting!

Nicole:  On the other hand, it was kind of a good reflection of the actual chaos of everything that was happening.

Steph: All the Vessels were ace though, I thought Pia especially was a great character

Donna: I came to love Pia so much. I thought she was annoying and pedantic at first but she really grew on me. She really was the perfect vessel.

Holly: So this wouldn't be a true YAck without at least one voice of dissent, right? After a promising start, I couldn't connect with any of the characters (except for Raan the secondary characters were especially one-note), and I was bored by the uneven and repetitive plot (Easily survive the dangers of the desert, go to the next village, find the vessel, convince vessel to leave with group to go to the next village to find the next vessel, etc.) I read a generous 200 pages of this book before I DNFed. I was most disappointed in Liyana. On paper, she has all the attractive qualities of a kickass heroine but in reality she lacked depth and complexity. And the WORDS, Donna. They just weren't there.

Heidi: Holly, I know a few people who just could NOT get into this one, which makes me sad because I loved it so much, but you're also not alone and have very valid points.

I'm another Pia fan, and I also liked Raan quite a bit.

Chachic: Okay, it's almost 1am over here and I just finished reading Vessel. I basically read most of it in one day - during train rides and a big chunk of it after I got off work. Like Heidi, I found myself absorbed by the story and didn't really notice the flaws in the writing. I can see why so many fantasy readers loved this but I can also see why it didn't work for others. Holly, I think you gave it a chance (almost halfway through) and maybe you just weren't as invested in the characters enough to read more about them. I'm sorry it wasn't as good as you were expecting.

I think the romance developed fairly quickly and then I thought it was a bit funny how it became a love triangle and then a love square. Although that just made me curious about how things will play out in the end. I liked all the vessels as well, I thought it was great that they had different personalities. And yes, I

The pacing of the last chapters were a lot faster than the earlier ones and yes, some of the scenes felt a bit confusing and I may have missed some of the details in those because I just wanted to go on. Let me think about it some more and I may have some better things to say in the morning.

Chachic: Has anyone read The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley? It's one of my favorite fantasy novels and some aspects of Vessel reminded me of it - the desert setting (even the horses), desert people who love their land and who have magic, a more modern magic-less country beyond the desert, strong female protagonist.

Donna: Raan was rather awesome too. Once she came into the picture I felt her presence far out-shined the others, even Pia. Holly, I can see why you didn't connect. I think I was more in love with the world than anything else but the plot did make me happy.

Chachic: Raan was a great character, I like how she provided a different perspective because it makes sense that not all vessels would be happy to make that kind of sacrifice.

Another thing that I liked about the book was the stories within the story. How they kept coming up with tales and legends to prove a point.

Nicole: "I think I was more in love with the world than anything else but the plot did make me happy." This. I love stories about gods and people doing god-things, but it was the actual world that had be in an ecstatic ball of fangirl glee.

Melissa:  It's been a little while since I've read this one.... what I remember: like Donna, I loved the world that Durst created here. It really is vivid. And I liked the characters well enough, but I the book kind of came apart for me in the middle. The end ending was okay, and I LOVED that it was a stand alone, but I've been more impressed by other books of hers. Drink, Slay, Love is one of the BEST vampire books I've read. Period.

Melissa: Oh, and her telling of the East of the Sun, West of the Moon fairy tale is good too. (It's called Ice.) But not as good as East, by Edith Pattau, which is one of my all-time favorites.

Nicole:  I'm DYING to get my hands on Drink, Slay, Love.

Heidi: I really need to pick up one of her other books after enjoying this one so much, and both of those have really appealed to me. I love that every book she writes is so incredibly different, and that they're all stand alones. Chachic, your relating this to The Blue Sword makes me really want to read it! For some reason I love fantasy set in the desert, I went on a bit of a kick with it last year.

Melissa: I haven't read BLUE SWORD in years, but it was always one of my favorite Robin McKinley books. I think I need to reread it.

Chachic: Heidi, you really should read The Blue Sword. That and Beauty are my favorite Robin McKinley novels.

Nicole:  What you're saying is that I should put The Blue Sword on hold at the library?

Chachic: Nicole, yes, you should! I know Angie would want you all to read The Blue Sword as well.

Holly: I've wanted to read The Blue Sword for AGES, so I'm taking the turn of this discussion as a sign. Impromptu Blue Sword YAck, anyone?

Chachic: I wouldn't mind rereading The Blue Sword to discuss it with you ladies. LOL the conversation has shifted to another book. #sorry #notsorry

Nicole:  Don't they always?

Angie: I love every single thing about The Blue Sword.

Sya: Ok...i am starting this today. Honest. Blame Nicole for sending me The Dream Thieves...

Chachic: Sya, I'm really looking forward to reading The Dream Thieves! I requested it on NetGalley but I haven't heard back from them.

Chachic: Hey, we haven't discussed which character should Richard Armitage play in Vessel? I vote for the Emperor, although he's a little young. But then most of the characters in this book are young.

Nicole:  He should be a god. Because, you know, he already is.

Donna: That dude that's Bayla's ex . . Sendar or something?

Sya: Chachic - it is amazing! The best book I've read this year.

Sya: I am starting this book NOW. It will be easier now RA has been cast.

Heidi: Well it's my YAck in September, perhaps I'll just make The Blue Sword one of my options. Or we can just YAck it anyway.

Agreed with Sendar for RA.

Also yes. About The Dream Thieves being one of the best books of the year.

Derailment successful.

Image from allthingsrarmitage

Sya: Ok, so I finished it. I think I put off reading this one because I honestly thought it sounded awful but ended up really enjoying it. I agree that despite the sometimes overly simple writing style it was extremely visual and had no problem gaining a sense of place. The idea of sky dragons swirling above the desert was incredibly atmospheric. I thought the mythology was fascinating and liked most of the characters in the first half of the book. However the final third fell a bit flat for me as the actual gods seemed underdeveloped and the while section felt rushed. The romance between Jarlath and Liyana was also totally flat, although I liked them individually a lot. What made this book so good, though, were the mythological stories that ran through it which I thought were beautifully written and reminded me of the Andrew Lang stories I loved as a kid.

Chachic: Looks like you read it pretty quickly, Sya. I agree with your thoughts: the final third could have been better developed, including the romance. But that didn't really bother me.

YAcker Reviews
Nicole @ Word for Teens
Melissa @ The Book Nut 

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