What happens when you combine Fantasy, Adventure, Literacy and Maps and turn the ARC of the upcoming release over to Carmen?

Fangirling for the blog

Read her actual review after the jump.

 

From the book flap:

 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.

 

Overall:  As my recent breakdown over another 2016 release about literacy tells you, I LOVE BOOKS THAT PROMOTE LITERACY.  I don’t want to live in a world where books are banned or people can’t or don’t read.  That is where The Reader by Traci Chee comes in.  I was pumped when I picked it up and I’m happy to report that Traci Chee did not disappoint introducing Sea of Ink and Gold series!

Meet Sefia, a girl whose father was just murdered and who is on the lam with her aunt, Nin.  After running and errand and setting off to another city, Sefia returns to find her aunt in the middle of being captured by a mysterious woman in black and her crew.  They take her and Sefia quickly loses her trail.  Luckily for her, there is someone to save along the way, who becomes her companion.  She continues her journey.

Her search for her aunt is paralleled by the mystery of the book in her backpack.  Imagine living in a world where you do not even know what a book is!  Sefia knows she must keep it hidden, so she begins to try to understand what this book she carries might be.  Amidst all the terror, Sefia recalls her reading skills from childhood and slowly, secretly unravels the wonders of the book she carries.  She begins to wonder: is it the book her aunt’s captors are searching for?

Being the central character of this book, Sefia is a delightful heroine to follow on her advertures. She’s smart and strong and a survivor.  She doesn’t back down when there’s danger, but is extremely compassionate to the plight of others.  Sure, she’s flawed and conflicted at times, acts irrationally occasionally and can be totally frustrating, but that’s what makes her such a compelling character.

There is a trope that a heroine must be beautiful or small or have long, shiny hair or not even be aware of her outward beauty, but Chee removes the focus from the physical and hones in on Sefia’s her mental fortitude and strength.  To me, that is what made Sefia such a compelling main character to follow throughout this novel.  I respect Chee’s choices in making her completely human, inside and out, but not focusing on her looks.

Regarding literacy and the promotion of reading, I give this book very high marks.  Sefia lives in a society where the history is oral–it’s not written in any way, shape or form.  At one point, she must define what a book is to another character and it left me feeling so very shocked.  I was fascinated to see something that I take for granted defined to it’s basic levels.  In addition, there are clever little Easter eggs throughout, such as the page numbers themselves or burnt-out illuminated pages, that give visual hints and clues to the reader.

The ending of this novel will leave you breathless and wanting so much more–answering many of the initial mysteries, but also leaving so many unanswered questions.  Overall, this is a very strong first novel in a series that I highly recommend you check out when it’s published.

The front flap suggests that this series is great for fans of Inkheart and Shadow and Bone.  I agree with that, but I also see elements of Matched, The Giver and The Remnant Chronicles in this novel.

(Reviewer’s note: In order to keep this review as non-spoilery as possible,I’ve chosen to leave out many of our usual review categories.)

 

Judge a Book by its Cover:  This ARC cover itself (where publishers generally skimp on the extravagant details) is absolutely GORGEOUS on its own.  With the imprint of an open book over the beautiful, alien model’s face, I can only imagine that the final printed copy will have me like:

Amalie Fainting

 

Me Talk Pretty:  Chee’s writing has a way of drawing you in with all her little disparate details and hints.  The pacing was perfect.  Mind you, I had a review ARC and these MAY NOT BE THE FINAL VERSION, but here are some of my favorite non-spoilery quotes:

“It was a cruel kind of thievery, stealing into someone’s worst memories.”

“Brittle, brightly colored leaves arranged in a forest-floor collage:  This is a book.”

“Her words were a thread of condensation, fading quickly against the glass.”

 

Kick-Ass Factor:  Sefia is a girl adrift after the violent murder of her father and witnessing the cruel kidnapping of her aunt.  She is a survivor looking for revenge armed with nothing but skills her aunt taught her, Sefia must make her way in the world and not be caught or murdered herself.  She is strong and more than capable, but she also seems to struggle with the consequences of her actions (not that it stops her).  Because she both kicks ass and feels remorse, Sefia is the perfect kick-ass role model (mask added for emphasis).

Kick Ass Role Model

 

Body Count: This fantasy has adventure, sailors, pirates, hunters, kidnappers, thieves, magicians, assassins, child fighters and revenge, to name a few.  There is a body count. Some of it is brutal. All of it is necessary.

Kill Bill Blue Scene

 

He Said/She Said/They Said/It Said:  I have expanded this title because this book is told from multiple points of view, from varying perspectives.  In order to save the surprise of it for the reader, I will only say that these stories are woven together like the finest quilt–seemingly unconnected and mismatched swatches of stories are masterfully crafted into one bigger, more beautiful, fantastical overarching story.

Quilt Library

Don’t Believe the Hype: Pre-order this book. Now.  See instructions below.

Open tab/Last call: The Reader is the exciting introduction to Sea of Ink and Gold series and I’m leaving the tab OPEN for Ms. Traci Chee.  In fact, I’m giving her the choice of any of these bookish cocktails for our rendez vous.

The Reader by Traci Chee, expected publication: September 13th 2016 by Putnam. Hardcover, 448 pages.  You can pre-order your copy here.
~Carmen
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