Themes: Secrets, Revolution, Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Released: February 26, 2019
I really love the premise for this series. We Set the Dark on Fire is set within an island society where noblemen are expected to have two wives—the Primera, whose job it is to oversee the practical running of the household, and the Segunda, who bears his children and takes care of his emotional needs. The story follows teenage newly-wed Dani and her fellow wife Carmen, exploring what happens when the young women not only end up with a cruel, domineering husband, but find themselves in the forbidden territory of falling for each other.
Dani was a fascinating heroine to read about. Having been a top student at the Medio School for Girls, she gives the impression of being everything a good Primera should be—calm, capable, and always with her feelings concealed behind a mask of composure. Beneath the cool exterior, however, lies a passionate young woman with a true sense of justice and a yearning to be loved. Dani also has a secret. If her new family were ever to uncover her lowly background and immigrant status, it would mean imprisonment and the destruction of everything her parents have strived for.
Carmen, Dani’s sister wife and love interest, turns out to be far deeper than she appears to begin with. On the surface, she comes across as vacuous and vain and was always the first at school to taunt Dani for her poor origins. Yet, it transpires that Carmen, too, is hiding a secret, one just as dangerous as Dani’s. Once she drops the act of sneering superiority, she reveals herself to be sweet and kind, possessing a bravery and determination I admired. It was certainly no mystery how she was able to sneak past Dani’s defenses and steal her heart.
Much as I enjoyed the romantic element, Tehlor Kay Mejia’s debut YA novel is far more than a story of forbidden love. While the nobility exist in luxury, those beyond the island wall struggle in poverty and squallor. This is a story about revolution, about the people willing to stand up and fight for justice and change. Dani is drawn right into the midst of the turmoil, spying on her husband’s family for the resistance, living in constant fear of discovery. The twists and turns in the plot kept me hooked till the last page, and I’m really looking forward to the sequel!
For a powerful forbidden romance between two very different young women, and a highly original premise packed with suspense and danger, We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia gets 9/10 rainbows.
About the Book
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 a husband’s household or raise his children, but both 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 cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love.
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About Tehlor Kay Mejia
Tehlor Kay Mejia is a YA author and poet at home in the wild woods and alpine meadows of Southern Oregon. When she’s not writing, you can find her plucking at her guitar, stealing rosemary sprigs from overgrown gardens, or trying to make the perfect vegan tamale. She is active in the Latinx lit community, and passionate about representation for marginalized teens in media.