Series: Sea of Ink and Gold #1
Published by Penguin, Putnam on 9/13/16
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Action, Adventure
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Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.
“We’ve got such a short time in this world, you know? Cut shorter by the blasted foolishness of men… Our lives are so small that most of us only matter to a handful of folks…but bein’ part of a story like that? A story that’d blow all others outta the water in its greatness and scope? It wouldn’t give me more time here, but if I was part of something like that, maybe my life wouldn’t be so small. Maybe I could make a difference before my time ran out. Maybe I’d matter.”
The Reader is a fantastic fantasy novel filled to the brim with adventure and featuring an unforgettable cast of characters.
This isn’t like other YA fantasies out there. The Reader is a novel for anyone who loves myths, magic and mayhem. Traci Chee pens the kind of book with a world one can easily get lost in, and she sets the stage for a series that I’m excited to delve back into.
This tale, like so many other YA fantasies, follows a young girl on a quest for vengeance. Sefia is that girl, an orphan, who is left, totally abandoned, after the shadowy crew that’s been tracking them, because of a book, kidnaps her caretaker. Sefia isn’t the only character in this tale. Mixed in with her quest for revenge–told in the 3rd person narrative–the reader meets many more characters, some more important than others, but all portrayed with vitality, emotion, and humor that I enjoyed experiencing. Traci Chee is a wonderful storyteller, and I loved that she included so many stories within this one memorable one.
The Reader does take some time to get into. I was curious from the very beginning, but it wasn’t until about ¼ of the way through that I became totally engrossed. It might’ve been when Archer was introduced…hey, I love romance, so give me a hint of a love story, and I’ll perk up. Though, don’t get any ideas about this being an angsty YA-type love story; it’s not. Yes, once Sefia met up with her new ally, I started gobbling up the text, but that was because they were both so hopeless and alone, and seeing their connection form brought a hope and joy to the story and myself.
The Reader follows Sefia and Archer across many lands, through some dangerous, heart-pounding scrapes, and leads them to a crew of lovable pirates, all while showing hints of other characters during times in the past and future. Let me tell you, the plot is full, and I loved every minute of it—even the times when I didn’t know what the hell was going on. (Side note: I alternated between listening to this on Audible and reading a hard copy. The audio production is very good, and I feel it made the story more riveting. I’m sure it would’ve taken me much longer to read this story if I hadn’t listened to it, because the plot is so full.) It’s trite, but this one is all about the journey.
The Reader is a story that unfolds over time, and as you read you learn that it’s a story about identity, knowledge, destiny, and choice—how we leave our mark on this world. Sefia is always questioning, the book leads her to answers, but also brings even more questions. As I read along, I too had so many questions, some were revealed, a lot of them not, but I am still left feeling thoroughly satisfied. Traci Chee has planted many seeds, and I’m very excited to see this series grow. She’s a brilliant talent, and this debut novel shows great thought and skill. I know I’ll have to read it again, because there are so many tiny details. I love those sorts of books!
The Reader is for anyone who loves magic, adventure and fairytales. If you like shows like Once Upon A Time—big stories, grand tales—then you’ll fall in love with this one. I have no idea what Traci Chee plans for this series, what twists she has in store for us, but I am willing and waiting without patience to continue on this fantastic ride. I recommend.
“Control your future, or let your future control you.”