In this debut novel and the first in a two-part series, Dani is a society-wife-in-training who has a great awakening after being recruited by rebel spies and falling for her rival and one-time bully Carmen.
We Set the Dark on Fire is a book so timely it hurts ... Mejia manages to walk a very tight line in evoking some of the injustices that are currently happening in America without being heavy-handed. The world she has created is its own place—it is not some dystopic near-future. But at the same time, it gives America's current 'build a wall' rhetoric a very deliberate smackdown ... There's something very powerful about centering Dani and Carmen's queer, Latina love story and making it defiantly sensual and romantic in the midst of all of this world's sexism and prejudice ... It's a gripping book, easy to race through despite the difficult and timely issues at its core ... While there are some slight debut novel imperfections in the flow of the plot and climactic build, We Set the Dark on Fire burns bright, and I hope it will light the way for a new generation of rebels and lovers.
Like the revolution, Mejia’s world is carefully built. With its achingly slow-burn romance and incisive examination of power structures, this is a masterfully constructed novel, made all the more impressive as it’s a debut. This timely examination of how women move through the world is potent and precise, and readers will be eager for the sequel.
Tehlor Kay Mejia is no Ursula Le Guin. The politics in We Set the Dark on Fire are shallow and superficial. There’s good and then there’s evil—enough said. And Dani’s tentative foray into romance, which increasingly takes center stage as the novel progresses, often reads more middle schoolish than newlywed. But still, with lots of action and palace intrigue, the novel is a page turner. And in the present-day dystopia that is Donald Trump’s America, it’s damn good to see a young, queer, feminist heroine rising to the occasion as she grapples with so many timely and relevant issues.