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We Set the Dark on Fire


We Set the Dark on Fire

Tehlor Kay Mejia is a new author on the young adult scene with WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE being her debut novel. Mejia has previously contributed to anthologies like TOIL & TROUBLE as well as ALL OUT. Some of her future works include PAOLA SANTIAGO AND THE DROWNED PALACE as well as the conclusion to the WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE duology. Mejia is actively involved in the Latinx community and currently resides Southern Ohio with her daughter. Fans of SIX OF CROWS and THE HUNGER GAMES would definitely enjoy this book.

This novel is about Dani and her goal of being the perfect Primera. The story opens a day before Dani’s graduation from the Medio school. She is at the top of her class and of course the top man would pay the top price to have her be his Primera. Primeras are the husbands’ equals, they help them make decisions and will stand by their side no matter what. Dani’s husband to be is Mateo Garcia, who is very likely to be the next president of the Island. When graduation night comes, Dani is called up to be Mateo’s Primera, but what she doesn’t expect is that Mateo’s chosen Segunda is Carmen, the girl who has bullied her for all of her school years. Segundas are the ones that make the house cozy and will be the ones who bear children when the time comes. Carmen knows part of Dani’s biggest secret and Dani fears that if she digs a little deeper Carmen might discover the truth. But as time passes on, she comes to realize that Carmen might be the only person she can trust. She also realizes that she might not hate Carmen after all, and that maybe there is some other feeling there.

"Mejia’s writing style was absolutely perfect for this book....The world building was so well done because of the blend of reality and fiction....I recommend this book to absolutely everyone and am really mad that I have to wait a whole year for the next book."

Mejia’s writing style was absolutely perfect for this book, it didn’t make the book feel rushed or feel like it was being dragged on. I was able to breeze right through this story, without much confusion. The only thing that made me stumble a bit was the pronunciation of some words. I asked my friends how to say it because I wanted to connect with the story as much as I could. The world building was so well done because of the blend of reality and fiction. Because of what is happening currently in the world, I was able to connect it to the story and it made the story all that more powerful.

The plot absolutely blew me away. Why? Because the whole conflict is a problem people are facing today. In the beginning of the novel, we get a tale about the Sun God and the Salt God and how the Sun God was able to marry the queen of the island. The God of Salt was furious and sent a storm across the whole island. The God of Sun banished the God of Salt from the island but before he left, the God of Salt placed a curse on the island. Being terrified, the God of the Sun built a wall around the inner part of the island so that they never had to touch the salty sea. Anyone who tries to cross the wall is immediately killed. Sounds familiar right? That's because the mythology behind Media is a perfect metaphor for America right now and what is happening.

Occasionally throughout the book, I could see where Mejia got her ideas from real life and real situations. In one scene, Dani is telling a story about how her best friend’s dad was taken right out of his home, never to be seen again. And later, her neighbor was taken from his house while having lunch. This does happen in real life, in America. That is what made this book so beautiful, the mix of fantasy and real life. During a scene when a protest was occurring, I felt myself nodding along to what the leader was saying. Not because of what he was saying to the people in the book, but because it also applied to the real world. It is an important book to read.

Can I just say how happy I am to see two girls kissing in a fantasy novel? As someone who is bisexual and never gets to see two girls in a healthy relationship, I really needed this, the LGBTQIAP+ community needed this. There was one line in the book that acknowledged that some of the residents of the island didn’t even have a gender and even if it was a small mention, it was amazing to see that non-binary characters existed in a fantasy world. When I say that I have no words to explain how beautiful and important WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE is, I really mean it. Whether you like or dislike the novel you have to acknowledge how truly important this story is, simply because of the main characters. There have been very few fantasy novels with a Latinx main character and even fewer with a homosexual Latinx main character. This novel provides representation for those girls, those people. They can pick up this book and see themselves in the main character. We need more stories like this. I just want to say thank you to Mejia for giving the representation to those who need it.

As much as I loved this book and loved the queerness of it, I had a few problems. When I say a few problems, I really mean only one. The simplicity is that I think Dani forgave Carmen way too easily for the way she treated her in school, but I understand why she forgave her quickly, the plot had to continue. It also wasn’t like Dani was defenseless, she always shot a comeback right at Carmen. I quickly got past this problem and loved the story.

In conclusion I recommend this book to absolutely everyone and am really mad that I have to wait a whole year for the next book. I need it right this second. I gave this book a 5 out of 5 stars because it is absolutely deserving of it and honestly might be one of my favorite reads of the year. I would also like to state to the court that Carmen is, in fact, my dream book wife. I will be sending out wedding invitations soon.

Reviewed by Emily C., Teen Board Member on March 19, 2019

We Set the Dark on Fire
by Tehlor Kay Mejia