Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Review: The Last Messenger of Zitol

Before I get to the book review, if you're here to see the cover reveal for my amazing critique partner's debut MG novel, then you've come to the right place. I overbooked my blog this week, but you can find the cover reveal for S.A. Larsen's Motley Education HERE. Thanks! :)

I haven't done a book review in a while, mostly because life is a little too crazy, but when I had the opportunity to read and review Chelsea Dyreng's YA novel, The Last Messenger of Zitol, I jumped at the chance. Last year I read her debut novel, The Cenote, and I was captivated by her writing. I knew I would love her latest book, and I was right!

Publisher's Blurb:

When Rishi is kidnapped and taken to Zitól, she faces an unthinkable future: she is to be sacrificed to appease the gods. To survive in this place, where greed, lust, and fear eclipse compassion, Rishi befriends the selfish and ignorant king, only to discover that he may not have the power to save her after all.

My Review:

All I can say after reading The Last Messenger of Zitol is WOW! Chelsea creates such a vivid description of a time, place, and culture that is foreign to me. She has a knack for drawing the reader so far into the world she's created that we can feel the sea spray on our faces and taste the juicy sweetness of the indigenous fruits. And when Rishi is languishing in the tower, waiting to die, we feel her hunger.

Chelsea expertly weaves underlying messages throughout the story, like hidden gems among the words. There were several times where I silently applauded Dyreng for her ability to create such a masterful tale with such exquisite language and the perfect amount of humor.

The story of Rishi and her friends centers around virtue, and the polished white beads the girls wear to show that they are pure, holy, untainted, and unspoiled. The moment a girl loses her virginity, her white bead is taken away and replaced by one of the appropriate color. If you're married you get a blue bead, if you're a concubine, you receive a purple one. When Rishi and her friends are kidnapped by savages, all I want is for the girls to retain their virtue. And when one of the girls has her virtue stolen from her, the reader mourns for her loss.

The kidnapped girls are taken to Zitol where every spring a virgin maiden is sacrificed as a prayer to the gods. The wickedness of this city was eye-opening. The people of Zitol are carnal and lustful, and the gods they worship are cruel and demanding. It is only through the power and virtue of one girl—Rishi—that people begin to recognize truths that have been kept from them for years by evil leaders.

Here is one of my favorite lines from the book (Rishi says this to the king, also known as the Anointed One):

"The gods are not sending rain to reward your obedience. They are weeping over your mistakes."

And of course, there's a wonderful love story that is equally matched by the underlying theme of a magnificent change of heart. The narrator is a selfish king who is merely a puppet for the Speakers around him. But the moment he meets Rishi, in the months before her sacrifice, everything changes. She sees in him the good that no one else does. She inspires him to be better, to seek truth, and to honor her virtue. And when they fall in love, it is sweet and beautiful.

So you're probably wondering what happens to Rishi. Does she live? Does she die in the annual sacrifice? Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out! :)

I give this book 2 thumbs up, 5 glowing stars, and 10 painted toenails. :) I absolutely loved it!


  1. Great review! Definitely sounds like Chelsea Dyreng has breathed a lot of life into this story. That quote you shared was so eloquently executed by Rishi!

  2. Gorgeous cover!! And fantastic review. Sounds like she's created one vivid, tension-filled world!

  3. Your review of this is excellent. I really want to read it now to discover just what you mentioned and praised the author for. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Awesome cover! Sounds like a strong female protagonist and I can't resist those stories:)

  5. Ten painted fingernails... I love it! The book sounds fabulous.

  6. Good to see you aren't on the fence with the review. I mean all ten toenails painted? Wowsers!


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