Monday, September 12, 2016

Review: The Reader by Traci Chee

Title: The Reader
Author: Traci Chee
Series: Sea of Ink & Gold, Book One
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: 13 September 2016
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

I received a copy of this book from Penguin for review.

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. (summary from Goodreads)

The Reader is an exciting book, giving you just enough to keep you wanting more!

The Reader is an interesting story that is so much more than I expected. There are pirates, people! Not to mention magic, shady assassins and their school, Readers who read more than words on a page, and a world where - wait for it! - books are forbidden! What blasphemy is this?! But my favourite thing is definitely the pirates. More on them later though. Chee has created something original and compelling. There's a lot going on in The Reader and I mean other than the characters and such I just mentioned. There's multiple point of views, multiple timelines, a book within a book - and the thing is, Chee doesn't differentiate between many of these, other than having decorated pages to look like an older book that illustrate that Sefia is reading from the Book. Reading back over that I'm not sure it makes much sense. And to start with, The Reader doesn't make a whole lot of coherent sense either. It's not obvious whether the chapter we're reading is set in the present, past or future, and the pirates appear as stories in the Book as well as characters in the present world, and I can admit I was thinking "What the heck is going on?!" All of it is just so good though, so fascinating, that it didn't matter - I wanted more, wanted that moment when it all came together, and I loved that. Chee builds the action, the magic, the tension, the intrigue, and the romance so that I was completely invested in The Reader

Sefia is also an interesting character. My feelings towards Sefi went up and down. Sometimes she was brilliant, sometimes she frustrated me. But that's a good thing. Sefi is flawed, she's afraid and emotional, and acts without thinking. She's floundering through a situation she has absolutely no clue about and Chee has portrayed that pretty realistically. Archer, Sefi's mute companion, is an intriguing character. There's so much still to learn about him, about his past and who exactly he is. The little tidbits we did get are not pretty. Mostly though I'm seriously intrigued by Archer's future. It's another layer that teases the terrifying unknown and I'm keen to keep reading this series for those answers. I think Chee really did well weaving the past, present and future throughout the narrative. The Reader also tells the story of Lon, a young man learning to Read at the Library. At first I wasn't as engaged by Lon's story. Mostly it felt like Lon was simply a contrast to Sefia, each of them learning the same sort of thing but in entirely different ways. Once it became clear exactly who Lon was though, it made the story even more compelling. The same can be said for Tanin, who for all intents and purposes is our villain. Her narration added to the chilling tone of The Reader, allowing glimpses of just how much Sefi doesn't know. My favourite character is definitely Reed, along with his crew. Pirates are just too cool. These pirates aren't so much the pillaging and plundering type, though there's a little of that. They're treasure hunters, chasing mysterious wonders in the hopes of having their stories told so they're remembered even after they're gone. Reed and company bring even more magic and mayhem to the story and I am so completely enchanted. For Captain Reed alone I will definitely continue reading this series.

The Reader reminds us of the power of books, of stories, in a new and magical way. It's quite the wonderful read.

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