review: The Reader

+-+098926394_140title: The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold series)
author: Traci Chee
date: G. P. Putnam and Sons; September 2016
main character: Sefia
YA speculative fiction


Nin had taken care of Sefia everyday since her parents were killed but when Nin is attacked and kidnapped, there seems to be nothing Sefia can do. As Nin is dragged away, Sefia resolves to save her.

Just weeks prior to this, Lon is recruited by Erastis to join what he describes as a society of readers.

As these stories eventually intersect, we learn what it means to be a reader, not only of The Book, but of people, the sea and the land. I enjoyed the story’s complex portrayal of literacy as well as the emphasis placed on the value of the written word. Of course, it would be important to characters in such a book that they leave their mark and be remember.

The Reader is Traci Chee’s YA debut. Chee is an Asian American author, a self described geek and a resident of California. There were no doubt some shortcomings in the story’s architecture, but the last chapters were razor sharp and focused, leaving me primed for the next installment in this series. Chee deftly let the world of Kelanna unfold and present itself with just enough suspense to keep us wondering but not enough to make readers feel confused about this unknown place.

Sefia, the book’s protagonist is set on saving Nin.  She eventually teams up with a young man who does not speak and she names him Archer. Not often do we see young men who are rendered invisible in this way. Archer proves to be quite a worthy companion. While Sefia proves capable of saving herself, there are battles that surround her and she’s left cradling someone’s head or engaging in other benign acts that keep her out of the action.

As Sefia’s story begins to intersect with Lon’s we meet Assassins, Master Librarians, Captains, sailors and others without really getting an understanding of their hierarchy in this society. Some are kidnapped and forced into what they do, but we don’t really know how people get access to their position. Characters have a variety of skin colors and neither this nor gender seems to affect one’s social ranking. Neither material wealth nor poverty seem to exist. Most people seem to earn a living through some sort of skill or craft.

It seems Sefia has been prepared for this journey for many years. She’s reading the signs, trying to figure out who to trust and trying to save the woman who saved her. It’s a pretty interesting book!

[This review is based upon an advanced copy.]

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