I’ve been a fan of Sarah Beth Durst ever since I read her first novel, Into the Wild. Despite some mishaps along the way, she’s remained one of my favourite authors, and Vessel is yet another winning book from her. The world building is the best part of this novel. From the gods to the vessels, to the magic system and the clans Liyana and Korbyn visit, everything comes to life beautifully and makes sense. This is a world I want to see more of, to the point where I hope Durst writes a companion novel or a follow up set in the same world. There’s a lot of possibility and wonder here, and I’d love to step back into the world again some day, with new characters. The characters, while certainly not one-dimensional, do suffer a little bit from being slightly under developed at times. Liyana is a great protagonist and possibly one of my new favourite female characters, with another character in this book, Raan, following shortly behind her. She’s the most fully fleshed out, along with Korbyn, and her journey in this book is organic and natural. She goes from someone who is okay with dying for her goddess to realizing she wants something different, once she’s out in the world and has experiences she’s been denied her entire life. It was easy to root for her and hope she made it out of everything okay.Raan, one of the other vessels, was another strong character. I sympathized with her deeply, as she is incredibly vocal about her unwillingness to die for her goddess. I was initially worried about Raan and how she was being portrayed and how the other characters were reacting to her. They didn’t take kindly to what she was saying, and I thought maybe she’d be proven wrong, that it was okay to die for your gods. Thankfully the book didn’t go that route at all, and Raan does end up rattling Liyana’s faith a little, to the point where she does realize she doesn’t want to die either. I would have liked a little more introspection on Liyana’s change of faith, or her internalizing what Raan was saying and actually thinking about it, but what we had was good. She ends up being a character who isn’t villainized or demonized for her views, and I appreciated that a good deal.Fennick, the vessel for the Horse Clan, was unfortunately one of the less developed characters along with Pia, the vessel for the Silk Clan. He wasn’t bad, he was just sort of there and did what needed to be done for the other characters. To be frank, the story likely could have done away with him altogether. Pia is slightly better, as a blind girl who is absolutely devoted to her goddess and certain of her role in life. How she’s written is great: Her being blind isn’t a disability, as she can still function just fine without the help of the other characters. Fennick does dote on her in a rather obvious set up for a future romance, and it was sweet, but he helped her very few times in the actual story, which was appreciated. The romance was actually one of the really surprising aspects of the novel. Liyana is immediately attracted to Korbyn, but realizes nothing can ever actually happen: At the end of this journey, Liyana knows she’ll die so her goddess can live, and that goddess happens to be the lover of Korbyn. It doesn’t end how a reader might guess it would end; let’s just say it doesn’t follow the conventional young adult romance tropes or cliches, and that’s a good thing.The downside to that being, the actual relationship that happens near the end of the book is left kind of shallow and underdeveloped. Korbyn and Liyana had a lot of development and time to grow a love for each other; the other couple did not, although you could see how they’d work wonderfully together.And that leads into the main problem with the book: It honestly would have been better if it’d been split into two, or even three. It would have worked better as a series. A lot of things happen in this book, and sometimes the characters suffered in order to get the plot and pacing going at an acceptable level. Considering that at one point there are five main characters in the storyline, plus one other character who is not part of the group, it really needed to be split up so we could get to know them a bit better and they’d be given more depth. They’re still good, but when I imagine what Durst could have done with another book to expand on them, they could have been great.It also suffers from being slightly repetitive at times; by the time we reached Pia’s clan, I was ready to be done with the “traveling, reach a clan, encounter trouble, escape, travel, clan, etc.,” set up. Thankfully it does shake this off, but it did get a little boring by the time they reached the Crescent Empire. The questions of should humans be expected to die for their gods and, in turn, the survival of their clans was a great one, and Durst treats it with care. Each character has their own view on it and, over time, those views either change or they become more resolute in their opinions. The resolution to that question is wonderful, and it makes me want another book in this world so we can see what happens in the future. There’s so much possibility there, so I hope Durst takes advantage of it one day.For all its little problems, none of them actually ruin Vessel for me. The things it does well, it does really well. There’s a great main protagonist and other notable characters, a good plot, and great writing. While it would have benefited from being more than one book, it’s still a great standalone. This is one book you should definitely avoid spoilers for. While one plot point was incredibly obvious, the rest was not, and I think it’d be a richer reading experience if you went in without knowing what would happen at all.