“The Reader” (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee (2016)
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Adventure
Page Length: 442 pages (hardcover edition)
Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.
Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning. (Description from Goodreads)
The Reader is story about a girl who has lost (virtually) everything in her life and sets out on a journey to discover the truth. The main character, Sefia, is a girl who grew up with so little and even though she doesn’t expect much out of life because of her troubling past, she still hopes for a better future. Sefia happens upon a mysterious book and it propels her on a journey to not only find her aunt who was kidnapped, but to discover what this magical book beholds.
The environment for The Reader is a mystical land full of jungles, countrysides, and bustling cities. The writing by Chee is incredibly descriptive and it immerses the reader in this new world. Though Kellana sounds like a beautiful place, there is much danger at every turn as Sefia runs into trouble on her journey.
The concept of a “magic book” has been done time and time before, but Chee manages to create a tale which is unique and it really stood out to me compared to some of the recent fantasy novels I have read. The novel is essentially a “book within a book” and how this part of the plot develops is half the excitement of the story. Time flashes between the past and present through various viewpoints which at times I felt was unclear, but most of the loose ends tied together towards the end of the book.
Another part of the story that I loved is that the focus was on the action, adventure, and suspense at all times. The romance that arises stays in the background and there is not dreaded instalove. Yes! More of the story is focused on the themes of self-identity as Sefia and her companion Archer try to unravel the book’s mysteries as well as trying to grow from their pasts. The overall plot moves smoothly and the character development is solid.
There is not too much else I can say about this book without spoiling too much of the surprises that await inside of the pages. But readers can look forward to pirates, a secret library organization, and some cool fight sequences. This book is easily one of my top favorite reads for 2017!