We Set The Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (We Set the Dark on Fire, #1)

We Set The Dark on Fire centers intrigue, uncertainty, and revolution in a struggle for survival. The politics are interesting, the revolution is enigmatic and I want to see more in the next one. The dynamic with Carmen is great.

This book sets a class struggle on an island, where the elite rely on dividing women's lives in two, designed to give men access to everything while their wives suppress different parts of who they could be. The divide between Primeras and Segundas, when strictly observed, ensures that their husbands have someone to help with every part of their lives, while the Primeras are used for their minds and the Segundas are used for their bodies. The division is more complex than that, with girls training from ages 12-17 for their wedding, then going straight into marriage with one partner they might know (the Primera or Segunda to complement them) and one they will have never met before (their mutual husband).

I like how this book explores gendered expectations, with quotes from the Primera handbook reminding the reader how Dani ought to behave, even if she is diverging from those prescriptions. This is the second book of revolution that I've read in short succession (refer to my review of Beneath The Citadel), but while some small things overlap, the tone and plot are completely different. Dani's status as a continual outsider means that there is an uncertainty behind her thoughts and actions, and it helps to remind me that she's approximately seventeen at this point.

I can't leave this space without saying that this book explores queer romance (specifically lesbian romance) within this space of mistrust and uncertainty. Because this is the first book of an ongoing series I don't know yet how it'll play out and I'm not ready to decide how I feel about the relationships portrayed here. This is definitely not their final form.

This book reminds me of the Trickster saga by Tamora Pierce (Trickster's Choice / Trickster's Queen), I hope to review that here at some point, but the main thing is they share romance and island revolution against class structure. The Trickster saga has active involvement of deities, so I'm interested to see whether the gods in this series remain as a mythological backdrop or if it's the sort of story where they will take on a more active role.

CW for sexual content (brief), cursing (brief), xenophobia, sexism, fire/fire injury, car accident, blood, medical content, violence, gun violence, police brutality, torture (not depicted), death.


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