If you’ve been following the blog tour for author Chelsea Dyreng’s novel The Last Messenger of Zitól, you’ve made it to today’s stop! I’ll be sharing my review and some information about the author.
The Last Messenger of Zitól
Sweetwater Books/Cedar Fort Press
Available September 1, 2016
Rishi longs to visit the grand city of Zitól described in her grandfather’s stories. When her peaceful village is attacked, Rishi finds her path set toward the city, but whether she’s caught in an adventure or a nightmare is uncertain. The city has changed from her grandfather’s time, and now the people of Zitól believe in pursuing pleasure and in human sacrifice to please the gods. Rishi vows to protect her virtue, her most valuable treasure, in a city bent on destroying it. When she’s tasked with bringing a message to the gods, she embraces the honor wholeheartedly, longing to bring a change to the people and most particularly to the man she loves.
I thought it was interesting that the story is narrated by the ruler of Zitól. His story begins early in the tale and drops off for a time before reappearing. I liked his character. I liked Rishi, too, and the fact that she valued learning and virtue.
Her village shares a ceremony in which girls are given a white bead to symbolize their purity as virgins. They remain so until they marry and their husband gives them a turquoise bead in place of the white one. This definitely places a high value on virginity, and when one of the girls is attacked and raped, her bead is replaced with a brown bead, and she feels horribly ashamed. Rishi tries to return the girl’s white bead to her, explaining that since the attack wasn’t her choice, she should still be considered pure. The girl refuses to accept the bead.
The message about how pursuing pleasure leads to pleasing only oneself versus how pursuing love leads to a willingness to sacrifice for the good of others is admirable and well-integrated into the story. I also liked the way Dyreng uses dreams to play a role in the way the story unfolds.
While I loved that the story celebrated purity as a desirable thing (not a popular value so much in our culture today), I thought it was harsh on the girls whose lives didn’t match that ideal. This might be a confusing story for someone who has experienced abuse or trauma or is dealing with feelings of shame over sexual activity. See the notes below for other details on content.
Rishi’s village is attacked by a wild tribe of men described as short with flat noses. Her people are islanders. There aren’t many racial details given about many characters or the people of Zitól itself.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Because of the very strong value placed on purity, this might be a confusing story for someone who has experienced abuse or trauma or is dealing with feelings of shame over sexual activity. Rishi and her friends are kidnapped and brought to a woman who intends to sell them. She believes men can be controlled with sex, and uses the tribal men who work for her as examples by offering one of the girls to them as a reward for doing her bidding. They rape and brutalize her (not shown) before returning her to her friends.
The woman hints that she intends to sell the girls for sex in some fashion. Keeping concubines is popular in Zitól.
One of the leaders in Zitól tries to convince a girl that because he is a holy man, sleeping with him will not compromise her virtue. When this fails, he attempts to starve her into submission. At one point he tries to touch her and she stops him.
Rishi and her love exchange kisses. He wants to share more, but she refuses.
Rishi’s people believe in multiple gods. She also believes that the stars are the spirits of those who’ve lived before her. In Zitól, the people also believe in many gods as well as human sacrifice. Their ruler is said to be half-god.
Rishi’s three older brother’s play pranks on her. Tribal men attach Rishi’s village and later, rape one village girl and attempt to rape another. One of the leaders in Zitól keeps a starving jaguar which threatens to attack. A man cuts another man with a knife.
About Chelsea Dyreng
Chelsea Bagley Dyreng is the author of “The Cenote.” She was raised in Wyoming and Idaho and earned her BA at Brigham Young University. She worked for several years as a librarian before moving to North Carolina where she and her husband are raising five God-fearing, book-loving, adventure-seeking kids.
Check out the Other Stops on the Tour
September 12: A Bliss Complete | Compass Book Ratings
September 13: Rockin’ Book Reviews | Bookworm Lisa
September 14: My Reading Spot
September 15: Bookfever
September 16: Kristin Smith | Wishful Endings
September 17: Hardcover Feedback
September 18: Geo Librarian
September 19: Singing Librarian Books
September 20: Mel’s Shelves
September 21: My Book a Day
September 22: The Things I Love Most
September 23: Writing Worm | Reader Girls
September 24: The Story Sanctuary – YOU ARE HERE
September 25: Bonding Over Bindings | Kindle & Me
September 26: Joy in the Moments
September 27: Crossroad Reviews
September 28: All About Baby’s World
September 29: Reidhead Random-ness
September 30: Tastes Like Joy