Xochital is her village’s cuentista, someone who has the ability to take people’s stories into their body so that they can be released back into the desert as an offering to their god, Solis. It’s believed to be a healing ritual of sorts even though it takes a physical and emotional toll on the cuentista. Her village is also being run by a blood-thirsty tyrant, and in order to escape the village and her fate, Xochital finds herself allying with the tyrant’s daughter as they plan their escape into the desert.
Title & Author: “Each of Us a Desert” by Mark Oshiro
Published By: TorTeen
Availability: September 15th, 2020
Page Count: 432 pages
Genre(s): High Fantasy, LGBT, Own Voices, SFF, Magical Realism, Romance
Potential Triggers: Descriptions of graphic violence, injury, and death; allusions to animal deaths; instances of emotional abuse and domestic abuse
Mark Oshiro’s sophomore release is an incredibly ambitious and emotional epic fantasy story that is so deeply rooted in the idea of questioning your world. It’s full of Spanish, poetry, and beauty, and really speaks to the power of stories—the stories we pass on to each other, the stories we keep for ourselves, and how our lives boil down to the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.
The story Xochital’s always been told about her role as a cuentista is that she’s destined to merely be a vessel for other people’s stories, sins, and secrets—that her entire purpose is to carry those burdens from one place to another without leaving any space for herself. As she and Emilia begin their perilous journey into the desert, Xochital is encountering other cuentistas for the first time in her life, and realizing how different their roles can truly be. She is desperately trying to break this cycle of hidden trauma within her community while also giving herself space to figure out who she is beyond being what other people need her to be. She is more than the service she can provide to her neighbors, and by being brave enough to do things differently and question all her beliefs, she’s allowing herself to finally get to a better place.
There are challenges and hardships along the way, bitter secrets and dangerous set-backs, but Xochital and Emilia persist through it all. Each of Us a Desert truly transports the reader on an epic journey across the desert. It’s a story that tests its characters in every imaginable way, and the slow-burning drama will make you want to see Xochital through until the very end. It’s an incredibly satisfying fantasy full of emotion, and Xochital’s journey is one you won’t soon forget!
Adri (they/them) is a queer, trans, and non-binary Mexican-American book reviewer. They’ve been creating BookTube content for over six years on perpetualpages and remain interested in creating content that celebrates and centers marginalized voices, intersectional viewpoints, and inclusive ideologies. When they’re not re-watching RWBY or Avatar: The Last Airbender, they can be found writing, laughing out loud while listening to podcasts in public, playing video games, and wearing geeky graphic tees to telegraph their interests to other people.