We Set the Dark On Fire is the gripping debut novel of Mexican-American author Tehlor Kay Mejia, showcasing parallels to the struggles of immigrants and the LGBT community without sounding preachy or redundant.
The story begins with a myth, introducing readers to the brother god-kings of Salt and Sun who watch over the peaceful island of Medio. When the Sun God sees the brilliance and wit of Medio’s princess, he takes a mortal form and her hand in marriage. The Moon Goddess took notice of the Sun and came to him in the most beautiful form, leaving the Salt God alone in the sea and without the light of the Moon he loved so much. After days of consideration, the God of Sun decided to take his opposite as a second wife, much to the disdain of his brother. The Salt God waged a battle he could not win for the Moon Goddess he lusted after and upon his loss, was banished. Before he left, the bitter god cursed the lower lands of the island and those who lived there. As his final act before returning to his celestial body, the Sun tasked his followers of the inner island to build a wall, keeping those who lived in his brother’s old domain out, and promised the men who complied to always be blessed with two wives; a Primera blessed by his Princess’ tact and patience, and a Segunda gifted with beauty by the Moon Goddess’ hand.
The story picks up in the Medio School for Girls where Dani, a Primera graduating at the top of her class, is confronted by her past and a rebellion in the form of a mysterious boy right before she is sold to her new husband, Mateo Garcia. She is paired with the bully who had tormented her during her five years at the school, Seguna Carmen Santos; the only other person aside from the mystery boy who knows about her secret.
Dani adjusts to being the wife of a rising politico, feeling discontented with how little her husband trusts her and dealing with Carmen, who is stirring up strange emotions and seems like she knows more about the rebellion than she lets on. What little comfort she should have had was stripped away from her when the mystery boy approached her in need of a favor she couldn’t refuse for fear that she’ll be revealed as a girl from over the wall and be killed along with her parents who gave up everything to give her a better future.
This novel was incredibly gripping and powerful, drawing me in and validating all the “girls who want to hold hands with girls.” We Set the Dark On Fire is certainly a worthwhile read, and the sequel, We Unleash the Merciless Storm, is due to release February 25, 2020.
PRR Writer, Bryahnna Butler