28 August 2016

Review #514: The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold, #1) by Traci Chee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“When a reader falls in love with a book, it leaves its essence inside him, like radioactive fallout in an arable field, and after that there are certain crops that will no longer grow in him, while other, stranger, more fantastic growths may occasionally be produced."

----Salman Rushdie

Traci Chee, an American author, pens her debut YA fantasy novel, The Reader which is the first book in the Sea of Ink and Gold series and this series opens with a young teenage girl and her aunt who are on a run for ages from the men and the assassins who have murdered the girl's father. But pretty soon, the girl's aunt is kidnapped and she is left with so many unanswered questions about her parents and her sketchy past and especially with a package that contains a rectangular mysterious object that her kind do not know how to interpret it or rather say, read the book of her father's.


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 book opens with Sefia's journey along with her aunt, Nin, into the great wild and unknown forest in her land known as Kelanna, the land of illiterate people. They are on a run from those heartless men who have murdered Sefia's father and is after them for a package containing a book, but after Nin's kidnapping, Sefia decides all by herself to put the piece of puzzles to her past together to get some answers even if she need outside help to find the missing stories related to her past, she would risk it. And as Sefia begins to read that mysterious book with the help of a handsome and reticent boy, she loses herself in those strange short stories that draw a parallel line to her past and to the connection with her parents. But there are great and unavoidable forces out there who would go at any lengths to posses that book.

Firstly, I must pay my respect to this debut author by giving a standing ovation (virtually stands up and claps my hands) because of her effort, her imagination, her story telling, her myriad cast of characters, the short stories and as a whole to the book itself. The book has simply exceeded all my expectations about how a fantasy novel should be, with proper amount of magical realism, adrenaline rushing thrill, edgy dangers, anticipating mysteries, and unpredictable twists that made this book rich, deep and extremely enthralling. The stories within this story are truly exceptional and along with the protagonist, the readers too are bound to get lost into the heart of those mysterious short tales that will only enlighten the mind, body and soul.

The author's writing style is emphatic and distinctly exquisite with enough authenticity in the story line to make the readers connect properly with it. The narrative is highly absorbing and alluring although there are multiple narrative of so many diverse characters that not even for once will baffle the readers, in fact it will always keep the readers on their edges till the very end. The author here captivates the sheer beauty of the method of reading a book in all its glory. The pacing is quite slow yet well adjusted to the progress of the story and the articulate prose of it. The multi-layered plot is thick with so many twists and turns that will keep the readers glued to the pages of this book in order to look for the clues to find the light at the end of the complex maze of mystery underlying the main story line.

The fantasy world development is strikingly done by the author who have cleverly projected a land of people from various ethnic races living in harmony but with some ugly magical and mythical secrets and also the common people are illiterate, except the few who have braved themselves to the world of knowledge and literature. This make-believe world is completely justified with proper logic and reasons that will make the readers comprehend as well as believe in such a fantasy universe.

The characters from the book are really well developed and are drawn with enough realism. The main protagonist, Sefia, is a brave, intelligent, smart and a compassionate girl who not only is left torn apart with the unraveling mysteries and the edgy challenges but is also left sentimental and confident with the discovery of her powers. She is not a kick-ass heroine, instead a thoughtful and calm one who will inspire the many young minds those will read her story. The supporting cast of characters are distinct, realistic, strong and diverse that only make this story interesting and fulfilling.

In a nutshell, this beguiling fantasy novel leaves so many minds curious for the next book in the series and this is a must read book for all those who want to unravel the magic of reading stories within a story as well as with the charm and extent of an intricately crafted magical world.

Verdict: Thoroughly arresting, emotional as well as enlightening YA fantasy novel.

Courtesy: Many thanks to the publishers for giving me an opportunity to read and review an ARC of this book. 

Author Info:
Traci Chee is an author of speculative fiction for teens. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at piano playing, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog. The Reader is her YA debut.
Visit her here 

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