- Gabby Womack
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: YA Fantasy
Representation: Latinx/Latine, Queer, LGBTQ+, Sapphic
At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run her husband’s household or raise his children, but both wives are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.
Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme. On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold, but nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?
I loved this book! Dani is a relatable narrator and I enjoyed going on this journey with her. I couldn't help but roll my eyes for the entire description of Medio's society because of how misogynistic it is. Some of my favorite things about this book were the descriptions of food and concepts like privilege and what makes an effective protest and revolution. This is the first time I’ve read a fantasy book that describe Latin dishes and food (especially, in a decadent way). I’m used to reading about pheasant and mead but this book gave me tortillas, rice, beans, plátano, and more! It made me feel more connected and included. This is what good representation looks like.
Dani and Carmen's relationship is complex, but we don't really get a chance to dive into that in this book so Carmen is still a mystery. I look forward to seeing this develop in the next book.
The only think that I found odd was the fact that La Voz used so much energy just to test Dani’s loyalty. Why? Is she a special part of the plan? I didn’t get the notion that she is…
Mejia's depiction of the uprising in Medio feels more realistic than other depictions in YA. She poses the questions:
What is the right way to protest?
When your protests don't work or are hijacked, how do you make change despite that?
Medio's government masquerade's as a sort of democracy but blatantly leaves the "cursed" poor folx outside the wall to their own devices. Despite La Voz's original peaceful protest, the elites/military find ways to undermine it by turning it violent. Once they realize that their rights will not be given willingly, La Voz becomes violent, too. Dani questions whether or not she wants to be a part of their cause if this is how they are going about it. Many people question this, including myself! However, in this scenario and in Dani's position within the aristocracy, she can either let her government destroy the common people or join the revolution. Both sides will have blood on their hands, but their methods, reasoning, and desired outcome are very different.
I’m look forward to the next book!