We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (WSTDOF #1)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Available Through The Book Depository: We Set The Dark On Fire
Summary: 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. Both paths promise 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 pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.
And school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, 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 will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: We Set The Dark On Fire is not a debut to miss! Mixing together Fantasy with Dystopia, Tehlor Kay Mejia delivers a wonderfully explored plot, commentary on a variety of themes relevant today, and a great cast of characters! We Set The Dark On Fire is a book you need on to add to your TBR if it you haven’t already!
Mejia’s debut is one I’d been looking forward to for 2 years, ever since I’d heard about the books announcement! It mean’t so much to me as a Latinx YA reader anticipating this intriguing fantasy debut that would also discuss many timely and complex issues from immigration, privilege, resistance, etc. and just knowing a new Latinx YA Fantasy was on the horizon!
We Set The Dark On Fire is set on the island nation of Medio. However, this fictional setting is filled with parallels to our world that Tehlor explores alongside deeply explored social commentary!
Daniela Vargas is getting ready to graduate from the Medio School For Girls and has studied for years to become a Primera, the first wife to a husband. In this world, Medio’s School prepares women to be one of two wives by graduation, the Primera or Seguanda.
What really set the stage for the entire book for me was the introduction which shared the story of the Salt & Sun gods and how their story built the society of Medio into what it is today and introduced us to the complex world.
Primeras and Seguandas complement each other and in turn, must work in harmony. I loved exploring all the parallels and contrasts to each role throughout the novel and how through Dani’s journey we see how this legend of the gods was taking a different turn in the present day of Medio.
Dani grew up on the outer islands of Medio (Polvo) where they aren’t treated well and knows all too well that the husband she’s with can change her & her family’s life for the better. Which is why she has to keep her past a secret to avoid suspicion and do what she can to prove herself in this world.
She quickly gets herself tangled up in becoming a spy for resistance group, La Voz, whose goal is to change the poor treatment of those on the outer islands. She quickly meets Sota, resistance group member! He’s clever and very mysterious! Sota pressures Dani into joining so she can find intel on her soon-to-be husband Mateo. With her position, he tells her that they can use the info she finds to change Medio for the better. But if she doesn’t, the secrets of her past may no longer be as well kept as she thought.
Dani was such a complex and wonderful main character I loved following throughout this book! Knowing what those in outer-Medio go through she feels obligated to help, but knowing she’s risking her entire life that she’s built to create for herself, she’s conflicted. The inner conflict she undergoes was so well developed and brought many fascinating questions to the surface when it comes to helping those who can’t help themselves, whether one person can really make change, whether we should feel responsible for others who can’t fight for themselves, etc.
We Set The Dark On Fire is a book that just leaves you inspired by the messages woven throughout the entire story.
When Dani finds herself in the house of Mateo Garcia, son to a prominent politician, she’s caught in the politics, intrigue, and mystery of the Garcias. So, as she presents herself as the prefect Primera, she’s also a spy with doubts as to who she can trust and whether she can even trust herself.
With Dani’s training as a Primera she uses her skills to keep up a variety of roles to continue finding out more secrets. What I loved was that although there are characters you shouldn’t find yourself loving, Tehlor really developed them all in a way where I could really understand them & their motivations. From Mateo, Jose, the Garcia’s, Sota, Alex, and many more!
Though as Dani continues to spy for La Voz, she begins to question whether she can keep up this charade when a classmate from her past gets involved. She’s trying to avoid the questioning glances from Mateo’s father’s Primera+Segunda, Mateo , and the mysterious Carmen.
Mateo is secretive, mysterious, cold, but he was definitely a very interesting character to learn about. Dani wants to prove her skills as a Primera, but Mateo prefers she stay on the side. As Dani defies him we see his true nature appear throughout the novel.
His privilege is something that isn’t ignored by Mejia throughout this book and it was deeply explored and commented on a lot in We Set The Dark On Fire.
What I found to be such an inspiring element to this novel was seeing how Dani, Carmen, & the other Primeras/Segundas although are seen to be the power behind their husbands, they essentially are the ones that have all the power.
Their strength lies among different paths, but WSTDOF showed that the strength we have is not so easily seen and that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Strength can be hidden in a variety of ways, but we must remember its always there.
Surprisingly, Dani’s Segunda is none other than Carmen Santos, her former friend when she first got the Medio’s School. Ever since they drifted apart, Carmen finds any opportunity she can to taunt Dani about where she grew up. But now that both are Mateo’s wives, we see their dynamic begin to change.
Dani and Carmen soon break their rivalry into an unlikely friendship and relationship! The steady development between them, seeing them both change, all while also acknowledging their past together was so well explored and I loved reading them form this relationship.
We Set The Dark On Fire brilliantly weaves together messages of resistance, discussion/commentary on immigration and privilege, all while binding it together with this underlying theme of hope and inspiration for change.
The story had so many twists, turns, intrigue, themes of family, and resistance that made this book such a fascinating fantasy/dystopia novel.
Also it just made me so happy to read a Latinx YA Fantasy! Being an aspiring YA Fantasy and Latinx writer, allowed me to really take in & appreciate all the elements I could relate to so much.
From the messages/theme of family, characters, food descriptions, atmosphere, etc. honestly made reading this book so incredibly special and I’m hoping other Latinx readers felt the same way too!
My only minor critique was that because the 3rd person writing was very character and theme-driven, I did find I wanted more from the writing to build the setting and world of Medio.
Overall though, Mejia’s debut is a fantastic YA debut that delivers so many important messages and commentary done in a way I’ve never read before!
We Set The Dark On Fire weaves together fantasy and dystopia in a brilliant way! This YA debut brilliantly explores complex themes and contemporary topics, is filled with intrigue, politics, and is a tale of resistance! We Set The Dark On Fire is filled with a great cast of characters, fantastic writing, twists/turns, and a story that will leave you wondering where Dani’s journey is headed next!
I’m also shouting out a fellow book blogger review 😍💞📚 I recommend checking out:
We Set The Dark On Fire Review from Adriana over at BoricuaReads
Adriana is such a wonderful book blogger who continuously boosts upcoming Latinx books! In her review I love how she delves deep into the themes and how they are explored through the characters and setting. This was also one of her most anticipated reads too, so you can definitely see all the enthusiasm and excitement throughout her review!
Overall I love how she expands on the important topics explored in this novel and much more! If you need any more convincing to read this lovely debut, go check out Adriana’s review of We Set The Dark On Fire!