We Set the Dark on Fire

Tehlor Kay Mejia
In this daring and romantic fantasy debut perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Latinx authors Zoraida Córdova and Anna-Marie McLemore, society wife-in-training Dani has a great awakening after being recruited by rebel spies and falling for her biggest rival. 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?


Reviewed: 2020-11-02

We Set the Dark on Fire is about a girl named Daniela Vargas, aka Dani, who, for the last few years has been going to the Medio School for Girls, a place where young women are trained for one of two roles in their marriage after graduation: Primeras, who run their husband's household, and Segundas, who raise the children. Dani is the school's top Primera student, but her papers are a lie. She's from the outer parts of the island and she must keep the truth hidden or be sent to prison. When a resistance fighter threatens to expose her, Dani must use her Primera skills to become a spy to the Garcia family she just married into. Meanwhile, she's falling hard for her home's Segunda, a girl who bullied her throughout school, Carmen. Will Dani hold on to the privilege her parents fought so hard to win for her or will she give up everything to fight to free Medio?

I had this novel on my TBR Bookshelf since it came out almost two years ago. I don't know why I didn't pick it up sooner, but because of Quarantine, I've been slowly making my way through all my books. I don't know who wrote the review, but I read a few from this book and someone's first line was something along the lines of "How bad is it to be a straight male and have two wives, only to have neither one of them like you and to fall in love with each other". That line honesty sold me on reading this book and I read it through in 3 days.

I just really loved Dani's character. The inner struggle she goes through about rather she essentially continues being the model Primera her parents lied and fought so hard to get her to become or to turn it around and help fight against everything she's trained for for the last four/five years.

Carmen's character took some getting use to, but the author wrote it that way on purpose. The couple arc between Dani and Carmen is written well and honestly becomes a major part of the book (who doesn't love ex-friends falling in love?). The tension between them changes from partial subtext at the beginning to learning to trust to trying your hardest to keep them safe. Tehlor Kay Mejia does an amazing job with this narrative.

The story displays women not settling for something just because it's "been like this for hundreds of years". The women know what they want and they're willing to fight for it.

I knew I wanted the sequel to this book halfway through reading it. I searched high and low at local bookstores and ended up ordering it over the weekend so I could get it ASAP. I'm pretty excited to continue this story and I apart of me if thankful I did wait so long to read it just so I can get started on the sequel.

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