Well that was quite the beautiful little thing (it should've been little, considering that the margins and line spacing for this book is a little ridiculous but moving along). Out of all the books I want to read, some are those that I'm DYING to read, and this was one of them. The cover, the title, the synopsis, it was screaming to be read and loved and for oh so long I waited to get my hands on a copy, and with my busy senior year schedule my reading process was slowed down majorly, because if I had the time I'd have finished this in a couple of days.
This book is a jewel, and beautiful in every way. I loved loved loved it, no other way of saying this. The world building is, as everyone had touched upon already, the strongest point of this book and is only second to a masterpiece like "The Night Circus", although when I think about it this deserves its own spotlight for the original myths and desert it created.
Many complained about the characters and said they couldn't relate to Liyana and didn't like the others, as well as felt that the story pacing was slow. I loved every character even if I disliked them. Take Pia for example, who I thought was conservative and closed-minded for a while, but closer to the end of the story I began to appreciate her role in not only the book but also in Liyana's journey. I also didn't like the gods, specifically Bayla, when Liyana finally met her because I thought she was snobby and felt she was entitled to the body. This opinion also changed over time. Raan was the one character I connected with most though and understood in her mentality, hopes and fears, but Liyana as a main character was quite the admirable protagonist, strong, stubborn, clever, with just that lovely edge of sarcastic honesty.
Don't expect a standard romance either with this story. The ending that did happen I had only considered as a possibility off to the side, but having it actually happen left me satisfied. The development of Liyana's relationship with the boys around her (hint hint, more than one) was natural and something that drew empathy from me as a reader.
Above all though I'd say the value of this book is ultimately from the way it touches upon such powerful topics that are debated to this day, taking them and presenting them in a way that is original, engaging, and magical, drawing you off into a far away land where you can forget about your own problems for a time and lose yourself to the desert.
This was, perhaps, the best book I have picked up this year, and definitely joining previous gems on my favourite shelf. I know without a doubt I'll be revisiting this one again numerous times.