Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
You know that recurring nightmare? The one where you spend days...weeks...looking forward to something special (a date? a wedding?) The day finally arrives and you get all dolled up and head out to your something special. Oh, and of course, your entire family/friend base comes with you to be witness to your something special. You show up to your thing...and wait. And wait.
The other person involved in the something special never shows up and you are humiliated before your entire social circle. What do you do then?
That's pretty much how Vessel starts off. Liyana has waited and trained her whole life to be the vessel of her desert clan's deity. Her life has been spent waiting. She has to preserve herself and her body to the best of her ability because she knows, one day, it will no longer be her own. When the ceremony finally arrives, Liyana does everything she's supposed to do and dances to her goddess. Only her goddess never arrives. Seen as an unfit vessel, Liyana is exiled by her clan into the harsh desert where she discovers Korbyn, the raven deity, and finds out that someone or something is kidnapping deities.
Vessel seemed more like folklore than a novel. Durst creates a vivid desert society filled with many distinct clans and cultures. There are several stories/fables throughout the novel that give the world a rich feel to it.
The story starts out at a really nice pace while the world is being established and as we get to know Liyana. Once those things were completed, however, the story really takes off in an almost hurried pace. I wish the story could have continued at the same pace throughout.
I did think Vessel was a nice departure from your "average" YA fiction. Yes, there was romance...but it wasn't the main focal point of the story. Yes, there were touches of the cliche YA love triangle, but since the romance wasn't the focus of the story, the triangle didn't become overpowering.
Definitely give Vessel a try if you are looking for a fantasy that's a little different than your average wizard/elf/fae variety.