Just reminiscing on We Set the Dark on Fire I am reminded how amazing it was. Talk about characters I loved, compelling stories, and gripping action.
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?
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I adored Dani from the beginning. Fiercely loyal to her family, committed to her role as a Primera, and terrified of her past secrets. We Set the Dark on Fire is passionate, gripping, and a book that will surprise you with its depth. There’s rebellion, forbidden love, and personal growth. You’ll want to go ahead and pre-order the sequel as soon as you finish the first. I can’t sing the praises enough. If you love books with fantasy, mirrors into reality, and stories of rebellion, this book is for you.
My arc of We Set the Dark on Fire which had an amazing note from the author, Mejia. Mejia talks about how women are forced to “subjugate our desires for our drive”. And this sentence just moved me. The way I’ve felt torn between my ambition and love. Between dreams and family. And We Set the Dark on Fire is, in many ways, a love letter to this division. To a society where they are forced to pick between our emotions and passion, with our ambition, and what happens to characters who possess both. The challenges they face.
At the same time, We Set the Dark on Fire, there’s this fantastic element of fear of being discovered as a fraud. Dani’s pedigree is a lie, so a lot of the story revolves around this fierce fear she has that her background will be exposed. All the things she will lose, the way she will disappoint her family, and the sacrifices in order to facilitate this lie. And her duty, responsibility, and love for her family is a huge element in this story. It’s used as motivation and inspiration. As reasons to remain caged, and break free. So in a way, I couldn’t help but see this as a parallel to our current society. The wall that divides the country in half, the dangerous border checks, and the stark divided nation.
World Building & Rebellion
I really appreciated the world building as it gave the whole book the fantasy feel for me. The gods never stop playing a role in Dani’s life as society is molded after the legends. And it’s a basis used for division between the two halves of the nation. And connected to this, Dani has an important journey to embark upon. Dani has to decide whether this life is worth it, the secrets, the fear, and how she will make her life matter.
“You were a criminal the moment you were born, and surviving every day has multiplied those crimes a hundred times” (quote taken from the ARC so it may not be correct in the final version)
Because at the heart of We Set the Dark on Fire is a story about rebellion. About standing up against injustice. The sacrifices you make, the lies you tell, and the betrayal. While we may be observing all these crimes and feel the rage simmering under our skin. When do we take a stand? When is enough? It’s a climate of fear, papers, and sacrifices for a better life. This book is so timely I kind of want to shove it everyone’s hands.
At the same time as this intensely charged political plot, there’s also stolen kisses and romance. While Dani is a queer woman of color (latina and bisexual), her f/f romance is swoony. If I had to pick a trope, this romance would be one of my favorites of them (I won’t give the trope away). We Set the Dark on Fire is about Dani’s awakening in so many ways. Rebellion. Choice. Love. Desire. Her agency illustrates the consequences of a strict division between ‘head’ and ‘heart’. And this element of the story adds not only some moments of brightness, but a chance for us to get to know other characters much better.
We Set the Dark on Fire is moving. It is beautifully written and half my notes are just full of wonder at beautiful sentences describing dark and dangerous corners. Describing secrets we tell ourselves at night and desires we can only dare to hope for. It’s a book about acceptance, rebellion, and agency. At the same time it’s a book about forbidden pasts, secrets, and loves hiding in the shadows. There’s mystery, dangerous, car chases, and conspiracies. It is incredibly timely and poignant. And it made me cry.