I was sent the last book in this series by the lovely folks at Penguin, and it was the perfect opportunity to finally start the series. I've had the first two books in this series for years, but never started them. I I finally read them! And what a ride it was! I'll try to keep this review spoiler-free.
A stunning debut set in a world where reading is unheard-of, perfect for fans of Inkheart and Shadow and Bone.
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.
With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent.
Having barely escaped the clutches of the Guard, Sefia and Archer are back on the run, slipping into the safety of the forest to tend to their wounds and plan their next move. Haunted by painful memories, Archer struggles to overcome the trauma of his past with the impressors, whose cruelty plagues him whenever he closes his eyes. But when Sefia and Archer happen upon a crew of impressors in the wilderness, Archer finally finds a way to combat his nightmares: by hunting impressors and freeing the boys they hold captive.
With Sefia’s help, Archer travels across the kingdom of Deliene rescuing boys while she continues to investigate the mysterious Book and secrets it contains. But the more battles they fight, the more fights Archer craves, until his thirst for violence threatens to transform him from the gentle boy Sefia knows to a grim warrior with a cruel destiny. As Sefia begins to unravel the threads that connect Archer’s fate to her parents’ betrayal of the Guard so long ago, she and Archer must figure out a way to subvert the Guard’s plans before they are ensnared in a war that will pit kingdom against kingdom, leaving their future and the safety of the entire world hanging in the balance.
Sefia is determined to keep Archer out of the Guard's clutches and their plans for war between the Five Kingdoms. The Book, the ancient, infinite codex of the past, present and future, tells of a prophecy that will plunge Kelanna in that bloody war, but it requires a boy—Archer—and Sefia will stop at nothing to ensure his safety. The Guard has already stolen her mother, her father, and her Aunt Nin. Sefia would sooner die than let them take anymore from her—especially the boy she loves.
But escaping the Guard and the Book's prophecy is no easy task. After all, what is written always comes to pass. As Sefia and Archer watch Kelanna start to crumble to the Guard's will, they will have to choose between their love and joining a war that just might tear them apart.
Traci Chee is a master of weaving different tales together and, wow, I could see her writing going from strength to strength through the series. She masterfully expanded the story bigger and bigger from book to book, without things ever feeling forced.
The Reader was a fun fast paced read, but felt a little juvenile to me, but this quickly faded away as the series continued. I think my favourite in the series was The Speaker (I know, I never love second books best), because so many new characters were introuced and the story became much deeper and darker.
The best part of this series, in my opinion, is the foreshadowing. Very early on in each book, it becomes clear roughly how things are going to play out, but Traci Chee does a wonderful job of leading us to the belief that fate won't catch up to our favourite characters. It always does of course, and it's so emotional when it does (*cue all the sobs for the end of The Storyteller*).
I'm also a huge fan of the diversity of characters in this book. I love that one of our main characters is Asian, and there are so many types of people in this story, without it feeling like these people were put in there for the sake of it. Some of my favourite characters were Archer, Frey and Lac. The "reader" aspect was also wonderful - there are some wonderful book details in each book - if you've read it you'll know what I'm talking about. If not, why not read it and find out
I have to admit, some part were a little confusing for me, especially when we were navigating the world, full of difficult to pronounce continents and countries! I also found some parts of each story a little repetitive in places.
But overall, I really enjoyed this series. It's not a new favourite of all time, but it was a solid fantasy read and I would recommend it to fans of diverse, well-plotted fantasies with excellent characters.
- "This is a book, and a book is a world, and words are the seeds in which meanings are curled. Pages of oceans and margins of land are civilizations you hold in the palm of your hand. But look at your world and your life seems to shrink to cities of paper and seas made of ink. Do you know who you are, or have you been misled? Are you the reader, or are you the read?”
- “But books are curious objects. They have the power to trap, transport, and even transform you if you are lucky.”
- “But being smart was overrated. Being stupid and brave and curious? Now that’s something stories are made of."
- “Wanting the world to be a better place than it is? That doesn’t make you weak. That makes you the kind of person this world needs.”
- “Once there was, and one day there will be.”
Have any of you guys read this series, or any others like it? Let me know your thoughts!