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.
The Reader is Traci Chee’s debut novel, being released in just a few days on September 13, 2016! This is one of those books that grabs you and just doesn’t let go. I finished it four days ago and I still find myself thinking about the characters and wondering about them. It ended not so much on a cliffhanger exactly, as just leaving us with SO MANY QUESTIONS. Not only of the “what happens next” variety, but of the “why did they do that” and “how did THAT happen” sort.
The story is set in a world where reading is prohibited and books are unknown.
Well, that was certainly MY reaction to that idea, but these people quite literally don’t know what they’re missing. It’s just the way their world is, and no one remembers (or perhaps never knew) anything different.
Two curves for her parents, a curve for Nin. The straight line for herself. The circle for what she had to do.
There are several story threads throughout. Usually I find this annoying but somehow these all blended just enough to make sense and keep me from getting confused (which is quite an accomplishment). I liked how some of them eventually came together – now, the ones that didn’t…I still have ALL THE QUESTIONS about and the suspense is killing me.
The world is beautiful yet stark, amazing and yet creepy AF. It’s detailed, with several different territories/countries and vying lords. If this were an RPG game, I would go explore every. single. one. They all have slightly different cultures with common threads. Chee’s writing brings them all to life in vivid color.
In Kelanna, when you die, they don’t say prayers for you, for they have no heaven and no gods to pray to. There is no reincarnation; you will not return. Without a body, ou are nothing anymore, except for a story.
There are also pirates and ships and sailors and the navy. And in this world, women are treated as complete equals – no one ever doubts if they have a place in the crew, or the military, or anything. It’s awesome. There’s also this amazing song that I would LOVE to hear set to real world music. I was going to add it as a quote but decided you should really discover it for yourself in the actual book. 😀
I became attached to Archer before I was completely invested in Sefia. Archer, Archer. The silent, sweet, killer-boy. He’s a walking contradiction. I was scared of what he would do and wanted to protect him at the same time. Funny enough, that was sort of Sefia’s reaction too…and what ultimately convinced me Sefia was a character worth rooting for.
“I would never leave you behind.”
See, in the beginning Sefia seems just a teensy bit too cold, too good at shutting herself down, a little unsympathetic. But her growing relationship with Archer shows that she does indeed still have a heart and not just one hell-bent on revenge. The two of them grow and learn together. I really liked how at one point, their roles switch – instead of Sefia taking care of and protecting Archer, when she has a difficult moment he (rather awkwardly, but it was still there) takes care of her. It was just so sweet. Don’t think that the romance is the focus of the story though – it’s more like a sidebar that just adds a touch of rosy-glow to the otherwise rather sad overtones.
Instead he pulled her into him…he was going to do it for her, no matter what it turned him into.
I reeeeeeeeally want to know more about the magic of this world. It’s definitely there, but it’s not fully explained. Usually this would make me rate a book considerably lower, BUT. In this one the lack of explanation was alright. It wasn’t completely key to the story though it definitely affected in in big ways – twice. One of these was at the end, so it was totally part of the near-cliffhanger ending and therefore to me doesn’t count. I’m enjoying how we are discovering the magic and the book right along with Sefia.
5/5 stars. While I’m dying to read the next one (Traci confirmed on Twitter that there IS a second one in process as we speak!), I was overall very contented and while the ending wasn’t exactly happy it was…appropriate, in character, and satisfying. I flailed, and cried a little, and Tweeted about 5 times in an hour about it. Also preordered the signed copy from Kepler’s Books. Ahem.