Title: We Set the Dark on Fire
(We Set the Dark on Fire #1)
Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 364 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Publish Date: February 26, 2019
Rebellion, Prejudice, Arranged Marriages, Death,
Anti-Immigration Platform, Burns,
Abusive Relationships, Executions,
Latinx coded, Lesbian
I honestly am glad that I kind of started prepping this review beforehand because if I were to write everything that’s going through my head right now, it would pretty much be incoherent. I’m like… in shock right now, and I am so angry at myself for putting this book off for so long.
I didn’t really read much into this when I was first recommended to read this, and I’m glad I didn’t because I feel like the journey of the story meant so much more to me. I also didn’t clearly read into the genres that this was categorized in because I would not have caught on to the sapphic romance that I was in store for, and honestly it was such a nice surprise that I’m okay with it. I didn’t know what to expect from it, but I was anticipating that it was going to be a pretty good read.
Daniela Noa Vargas has a secret basically, and it’s one that would cost her and her family their lives if she were ever discovered. Her family originated from over the border, and crossed over when she was four years old so she could have a better life. So she did everything in her power to be the best Primera in the Medio School for Girls, and she succeeded. She is trained in spotting when something is wrong, trained to think quickly on her feet and make the best decisions possible. She’s so logical, that I don’t think she’s ever really let emotions other than anger fill her.
Carmen Reina Lara Santos is the best Segunda trainee in this year’s class at Medio School for Girls. She has been ruthless to Dani ever since they arrived at the school, and now they are married to the same man and their lives are entwined forever. But there is something about her that she may be hiding underneath that bitchy exterior. Plus apparently she’s hella gorgeous and now I’m intrigued to see how she looks like outside of my head.
Alberto Mateo Luis Gonzalez Garcia, aka Mateo, doesn’t even deserved to be mentioned honestly, that freaking asshole little entitled ass bitch.
Primeras versus Segundas: those are the two positions in a marriage that girls from esteemed families and are lucky enough to be able to attend the Medio School for Girls strive to be. Primeras are modeled after Constancia, the mythical Sun God’s first wife and his equal, and the Moon Goddess, the second wife and opposite, the nurturer. Because of this story from long ago, each husband lucky enough to purchase one of each will have these two women in his life, to model their life and marriage after the Sun God from all those years ago. Dani is the best Primera in her class, and Carmen is the best Segunda.
So it only makes sense that they would end up being purchased and married off into the same powerful family, the Garcia family. While the two girls seem to be at odds with one another from their time in school, they have to somehow work together to make this marriage bearable and successful.
All while dealing with the riots and protests from those that have been starving and killed on the other side of the border.
I mean literally everything?
This story was just… wow. I was so lost in this story, and I couldn’t help but want to root for both Dani and Carmen once I got to know both of them a little better. Well, it’s still up in the air on whether Dani and I really know Carmen, but from what she showed us, I understand her a little better.
I was so obsessed with the world that Mejia created, and I’m so freaking glad that she somehow came up with this novel and I just can’t even say anything remotely helpful about why I like this book so I’m sorry. I just really liked what I read.
Just the premise that these girls have to work so hard in order to have their husbands’ families buy them and the concept of arranged marriages like this. Nothing against the book at all because it’s a good topic to discuss and I believe Mejia did an amazing job with it. I just personally don’t like that these girls don’t have any agency.
Also I hate Carmen for basically betraying Dani’s trust when they were twelve years old, and being a complete bitch to her throughout their years at the school. I could only imagine Dani’s feelings when she found out that she would be stuck with Carmen in this marriage. Primera and Segunda til the end of days, with a powerful husband to share.
Oh, I hate Meteo and how manipulative, violent, and abusive he is. Looking at his father’s marriage to his Primera and Segunda, most especially the interaction between his father and his father’s Primera, I’m actually really shocked and betrayed that he would even behave this way after having such an amazing example to look up to.
But Mateo is a bitch and like he can go eff himself anyway so whatever.
Okay I literally had to set up this review earlier than usual so I could remember to write this quote down because, wow. It stopped me in my damn tracks.
Literally this was just a factual statement but it blew me away. Yes, these girls were literally bought by these rich ass families so that their sons could have not one, but TWO wives. That’s what they were born to do, basically. So yeah, even before Graduation Day, they didn’t even belong to themselves. They had an owner.
The story of the Sun God and the Salt God is basically the prologue, and is also included as the introduction to the Medio School for Girls Handbook, to explain where the history of the Primera and Segunda came from, why it’s so important that while both roles are completely different, they have to be in harmony with one another in order to make the marriage work. It’s interesting, and I feel like the real strength in those marriages come from the women rather than the man. I know in the beginning, I was super upset with the whole arrangement of it all, but then seeing it in action, and seeing the two women respect one another and work well together, it was actually amazing. It shows me that it helps to have another woman in your corner, especially when – like Dani and Carmen – they are stuck with an abusive husband.
I feel like most of these should have been in the memorable quotes section, but I put them here because this book is such a strong lens into the political climate today. The references to the border, parents doing what they need to do in order to give their children a better life, adults being shot for crossing the border and children being turned away to starve because they were born on the wrong side. Stuff like that sounds familiar, right?
I’m screaming because that ending was such a huge cliffhanger and I can’t believe that I have to wait until how long for the sequel. Like… how can you just leave me literally hanging like that after all that reveal? This was just so good. So, so, so good.