Publication Date: November 22, 2022
Uprooted meets The Grace Year in this dark young adult fantasy of love and vengeance following a girl who vows to kill a god after her sister is unjustly slain by his hand.
Weatherell girls aren’t supposed to die.
Once every eighteen years, the isolated forest village of Weatherell is asked to send one girl to the god of the mountain to give a sacrifice before returning home. Twins Anya and Ilva Astraea are raised with this destiny in mind, and when their time comes, spirited Ilva volunteers to go. Her devoted sister Anya is left at home to pray for Ilva’s safe return. But Anya’s prayers are denied.
With her sister dead, Anya volunteers to make a journey of her own to visit the god of the mountain. But unlike her sister, sacrifice is the furthest thing from Anya’s mind. Anya has no intention of giving anything more to the god, or of letting any other girl do so ever again. Anya Astraea has not set out to placate a god. She’s set out to kill one.
Laura Weymouth has a way with words, with turns of phrase that are simple and cutting and achingly true. Her books break me every time, and this one was no exception. I saved several quotes and I know I will revisit them. With only a few words she can conjure that aching, burning, wistful feeling better (and more consistently) than just about anyone else.
I also love the repetition of certain words and phrases throughout the book. Wetherell girl. Sacrifice. Don’t go. Don’t let anyone else go. Vengeance. Burning. Their repetition serves to heighten them and gives the story a rhythmic, chanting feel. Like a prayer. Or a vow. It gives them power.
I LOVE Anya Astraea. She has such a fire burning within her, setting her up as the perfect false sacrifice to bring down a god. The characters she meets throughout the story are wonderful (and sometimes terrible). Her choices and the path she walks and everything about her burn so brightly it hurts to look at her.
The title of the book would seem to come from the unjust god at the heart of her world, and in fact those exact words are used to refer to him at one point. But it’s not the god but Anya who burns with passion and conviction. I would say that the consuming fire is Anya’s deep-seated belief that her world is wrong and terrible and could be better – and that it is her duty to make it so.
The world she lives in is a terrible and unjust one, and her sacrifices and convictions help bring about a crossroads with the hope of a better world beyond it.
I loved the story of Matthias and the other travelers. They were so good, and when it was revealed where they had come from, who they were, and what they were trying to do, it was so satisfying.
I loved Tieran so much. He deserves so much more than he thinks – and I know Anya will do her best to make sure he gets it. Their romance was perfectly paced for me and just present enough to make itself known but not enough to get in the way of the story. They were also perfect together, and watching them grow closer and learn to trust one another was so satisfying.
I gasped at a few of the reveals – I did not see them coming – and they only made the story more impactful for me.
I actually put off reading this one for an embarrassingly long time. Once I finally buckled down and began it, however, I was sucked in and devoured it – finishing almost the entire story in one sitting.
My one criticism is that the very painfully obvious reference to Christianity – Ilva’s pendant – is jarring and feels out of place within the story. Without it, this reads as an alternate fantasy world. With it, and with the references to the Romans who had previously settled there, it reads as a weird, twisted, alternate history / fantasy. It lessens the impact of the story for me. That could be a purely personal preference thing, though. Even the barest hint of Christianity in a story is enough to sour it for me somewhat. But it isn’t necessary and doesn’t add anything to the story. It feels like an author-self-insert.
Weird Christianity insert aside, this was a gorgeous book and I definitely recommend it if you enjoy Laura Weymouth’s other books. I also think you’d enjoy it if you like Margaret Rogerson or Maggie Stiefvater or Laini Taylor.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Margaret K. McElderry Books for providing an early copy for review.
*Note: This last one is a bit longer than I usually quote, but it’s my favorite passage in the book, I think. It’s gorgeous and really shows off Laura Weymoth’s skill and genius as a writer. I’ve come back to it several times times since finishing the book because it captures that wistful, happy/sad, joyful/painful emotion I love that is so hard to find.