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We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia - Review

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle! I had been reading a list on Autrostraddle I think about the best f/f fiction coming out, and was intrigued by the premise. So I pre-ordered it on Kindle and it arrived like magic. I had forgotten about it, but thought I'd read it straight away. 

What's it about? It's set in a dystopian world a little bit like the Handmaid's Tale. It's also set somewhere in Latin America and features Latinx characters, which was one of the major pulls for me. It's set on an island called Medio where the old myths about the sun god still rule. The wealthy elite have two wives - their Primera, who runs their houses and social engagements, and the Segunda, who carries and raises their children. All three are supposed to work together to form a stable family. 

Further down the island are where the poor people live, and further out than that, beyond the wall, are even poorer people. There have been rumours of rebellion and uprisings for years, but Daniela, our protagonist, has tried to ignore this as much as possible. 

Daniela is a student at Medio School for Girls, which trains both Primeras and Segundas. She is about to graduate and knows she will be marrying Mateo Garcia, son of one of the island's most powerful politicos and who is himself being primed for president. A couple of nights before graduation and the marriage ceremonies, there's a raid on the school and the police are checking everyone's citizenship papers.

Daniela is immediately terrified. Her own papers say she's from a small town near the wall, but is a legal citizen, but in actuality she's from the other side of the wall. Her parents risked everything when she was little to get her into Medio, and her rising through the ranks as a Primera is how she's supposed to make them proud. Her papers won't pass the government's new checks and she's terrified. Then she's dragged off by a boy with a fox face, who offers her official papers in return for her spying on her new husband for La Voz, the resistance movement. She agrees, but is unwilling to give up her status... 

I'm not going to say much more, but Daniela gets married and has to contend with her Segunda, Mateo's other wife. But maybe there's more between them... But what is the Segunda hiding too? 

I thought that a lot about the setting said a lot about modern America and Mexico and the supposed wall Donald Trump is about to build to keep immigrants out, I don't think that's an accident and as someone who is pro immigration and freedom of movement, I really liked this aspect. I liked the mythological aspects and I am pretty sure there must be a sequel to this book, right? I wasn't sure what was expecting but I loved it, I loved Daniela especially. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Well, there's certainly an f/f romance even if terms aren't discussed! 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yep, obviously. I loved the Latinx culture shown, I think this is a brilliant setting for a high concept novel like this. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? A little, yes, but it's quite "fade to black". 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I don't think so. 

Is there any talk of death? Some and some injury stuff that is quite hard to read

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? Gosh almost none! I really liked this, I think it's a fantastic YA novel. I really HOPE there's going to be a sequel! 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. I will definitely be keeping an eye on this author. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It was at the front of my Kindle carousel and I had forgotten what it was about so just clicked on it. 

What other books is it like? It has shades of The Handmaid's Tale and The Hunger Games, for sure, but it also really reminded me of Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill. 

How many stars? Eight out of ten. Good book. Read it!

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