Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Author: Traci Chee
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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.
This book has a gorgeous type of imagery going for it. The series name is Sea of Ink and Gold which actually sort of makes sense, and isn’t one of those esoteric fancy shmancy series names that sound pretty, but make no sense. The cover is a satisfying mosaic of blues, and greens, and golds. The world inside the book is also rich, with pirates, and assassins, and a sea that may or may not reach to the end of the world.
This book was gorgeous, and I really wish that it fully capitalized on that. One great example of a fantastic world being given life and color is in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor, in which the elements of the alternate world, and even our Earth, were rich and full and fascinating. The Reader had the potential to do just as well, but falls flat on the details.
That’s not to say this isn’t a good book, worthy of a read. It kept my attention relatively well, and I enjoyed reading it. However, I never truly got invested in the characters, or the world, simply because they didn’t feel complete. The world was only fully fleshed out in the parts that became plot relevant and, even then, I felt that I was only getting the bare minimum. What is a day in the life of a person from each continent, and how do they differ? Every continent is an island, so is there any unique island culture? And, most important of all, How would society change if writing didn’t exist?
This question was what drew me to the book. It’s a fascinating premise, and many people speculate that writing was the most important human invention and, without it, society could not function and exist. Why did no one think to come up with symbols or even pictures to signify goods, or money? How did a society of this level emerge without a literate society? These questions are fascinating to me, and I’m so bummed that the book didn’t take the time to fully address them. Instead it was about the action, and the character’s stories. Okay, that’s interesting. But every book is about that. This book could have been so much more.
Okay. Enough said. This was a good book, and if you’re into fantasy you should give it a read. But it wasn’t earth shattering like it could have been. Maybe Traci Chee’s next book will be. She certainly has the potential to make it so.