I received an ARC from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Xochitl is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enigmatic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.
Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.
One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous conqueror. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.
TW: Descriptions of graphic violence, injury, death, and decomposition; descriptions of throwing up; allusions to animal deaths; instances of emotional abuse and domestic abuse.
EACH OF US A DESERT is about Xochital, a 16 year old cuentista, or storyteller, but in her world, she doesn’t tell stories, she takes stories from the people in her village who need relief, and then she returns them to Solis, the god of this world. When her perception of her world is turned upside down, she realizes she must travel outside of her small village with an unlikely companion to get her answers.
Would it really be one of my fantasy book reviews if I didn’t gush about the world building? No, so here I go again. I really enjoyed learning about this world that is mostly desert and living in constant fear of the sun, Solis, who punished humanity before. It was great to learn about the world through Xo’s eyes, someone who had never left her village and had only heard stories about what was beyond her village.
A major part of the world building was Solis, the sun and essentially this world’s god who punished humanity long ago for mistreating the Earth. This book explores how Solis is viewed on Xochital’s journey. I’ve never seen a YA fantasy make religion less than a single, accepted rigid truth, but that’s what this book did.
I feel like the summary makes it seem like the f/f romance is more central to the story than it actually is. There is a f/f romance and the main character is sapphic, but the romance is very much in the backburner. This is very much a coming of age book, as it centers Xo’s journey to discover the truth about herself and her role in life as a cuentista. I did, however, appreciate that this was a world in which queer relationships were normalized, with some background gay relationships and two background nonbinary characters.
The writing was very lyrical in places, especially in the poems. I think this would make an amazing audiobook.
I rated this 3.5 stars. It was good and I really appreciated what it did with the ideas of “truth” and challenging ideas given to you since birth.