Book Review: Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro | Book Tour

Hi everyone! Today, I have a review for you as part of the book tour for Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro, this tour was organized by Colored Pages and you can see the rest of the schedule for the tour here. I posted my interview with the author a few days ago, so go check that out!

Title: Each of Us a Desert 

Author: Mark Oshiro 

Publisher: Tor Teen 

Publication Date: September 15th, 2020

Genres: YA Fantasy

From award-winning author Mark Oshiro comes a powerful coming-of-age fantasy novel about finding home and falling in love amidst the dangers of a desert where stories come to life. Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enigmatic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous conqueror. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.

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Each of Us a Desert is a quiet, introspective fantasy book about the role of stories in our lives and in our communities and the link between the stories we are told and the things we believe in and have faith in. This is a character-driven book with a very loose plot but with strong thematic elements.

This book tells the story of Xochital, a girl who has been the Cuentista of her community from a very early age. She has the responsibility of listening and absorbing through a magical process the stories involving secrets, lies, deceit that produce feelings like guilt, sadness, resentment, and giving them back to the land so people can be forgiven by their god. If this process doesn’t take place, the stories manifest themselves as Pesadillas – monsters out of nightmares. At least that’s what Xochital has been told her entire life, and she has been struggling for a long time with this responsibility that she didn’t choose for herself.

After something happens that changes everything, she leaves her town and in her journey to faraway places, she goes through a spiritual journey where she realizes that beliefs are based on stories that have been passed down through generations and those stories are interpreted in so many different ways across times and places and no one can be sure which interpretation is the truth. Throughout this book, Xochital has to come to terms with the fact that what she was told is binding and absolute truth may not be and she realizes that she has to choose for herself what she thinks is right.

There’s also a very strong theme of community and this book explores the repercussions of what Xochital does for her community as a Cuentista because she takes the stories and leaves the people in her town feeling absolved of the guilt, and it’s almost like an easy way out. This book explores the idea that as long as we don’t actually face the truth and the consequences of our mistakes, there is no way to learn, grow and heal as individuals and as a community.

Mark Oshiro makes very interesting and unique writing choices in this book, which worked really well with the story. This book is told from Xochital’s perspective as she tells her story to her god, and as she does, she questions them and challenges them. Another interesting choice is that whenever Xochital takes a story from someone else, there’s a short story interwoven into the narrative where she shares the confession that the other character just made. This choice works because it feels like you’re being told a secret and it’s hard not to feel intrigued and curious about what that other person did that has caused them to be consumed by guilt. Also, the way the author incorporated Spanish – which is very prevalent in the book- felt very organic and added a special element to the story.

The author doesn’t give too many explanations about the world or the magic system, and while I do wish we got a bit more information, this choice makes everything feel very intriguing. There are so many captivating elements to this world: there are magical animals, there are masked villains that seemed like something out of a horror movie, there are magic poems, there’s a secret town under the earth where some horrible things happened and so much more. Also, this book is set in a very violent world, so people are killed in gruesome ways, they are mutilated, there’s a lot of detailed descriptions of corpses and a lot of other graphic depictions that are borderline body horror.

Lastly, I think it’s important to clarify that while there is a sapphic romance that it’s not the focus of the book at all and it’s actually a very small part of the story. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the small moments between Xochital and Emilia.

Some other reviews by Latinx reviewers that you should check out: Gabi’s and Linda’s.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro | Book Tour

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