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The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 13, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—"Two curves for her parents. A curve for Nin. The straight line for herself. The circle for what she had to do." This is the seal branded onto the book that was passed down to Sefia by her parents right before they were murdered by an assassin whose blade reeked of copper. Under the guidance of Aunt Nin, who is a thief, the teen learns to hide and hunt before her mentor is brutally torn away. In solitude, Sefia vows to rescue Nin. She is eventually joined by a strange, mute, and brutalized boy she saves. In a world where books and the very act of reading are limited to a select, powerful few, Sefia begins to understand the weight of her heirloom and what might transpire should it fall into the wrong hands. Sefia digs deep within herself and slowly begins to unlock the power of the written word. This work is deftly rendered in beautiful prose, narrated through three shifting time lines woven into an interconnected history of duty, honor, and magic. Chee provokes some resounding questions: What is there left to be remembered of us after death, and what must we do to be worthy of remembrance? This is a must-have for all those who value a good read with genuine character growth, mystery, unique world-building, adventure, unyielding bonds of loyalty, and pirates. Savvy teens will notice a message scattered through the page numbers. VERDICT A fresh, diverse fantasy; highly recommended for fans of Cornelia Funke's Inkheart and female-powered adventures.—Zeying Wang, School Library Journal
Praise for The Reader:
An ALA Top Ten Best Fiction Pick – 2017
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year – 2016
Finalist for the 2016 Kirkus Prize
A Kirkus Best Book of the Year – 2016
An NPR Best Book of the Year – 2016
A Buzzfeed Best YA Book of the Year – 2016
A Bustle Best YA Book of the Year – 2016
Minnesota Public Radio Best YA Book of the Year – 2016
A Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Year – 2016
A 2016 Nerdy Book Club Award Winner
An ABA Indies Choice Honor Book – 2017
“I was spellbound from the first page. An utterly transportive tale of swashbucklers and sharpshooters, masterfully written. Traci Chee has penned a beautiful novel about the power of story, complete with a fantastic cast of characters and an expertly rendered fantasy landscape. This is a book you will not soon forget.”—Renée Ahdieh, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn
★ “Deftly rendered in beautiful prose, narrated through three shifting time lines woven into an interconnected history of duty, honor, and magic. . . . This is a must-have for all those who value a good read with genuine character growth, mystery, unique world-building, adventure, unyielding bonds of loyalty, and pirates. . . . A fresh, diverse fantasy; highly recommended for fans of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart and female-powered adventures.”—School Library Journal, starred review
★ “Commanding storytelling and vivid details, particularly of the magical process of reading, bring the story to life… the first of what promises to be an enchanting series.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★ “Chee’s debut is an intricate, multilayered reading experience… An exploration of self-determination and the magic of the written word, Sefia’s story is an absorbing introduction to the Sea of Ink and Gold series.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
★ “With evocative language, fascinating world building, multifaceted characters, and a compelling plot, this is a series fantasy lovers will want to sink their teeth into.”—Booklist, starred review
“Most world-building shies away from tackling the question of literacy within fantasy cultures, but here it serves as the beating meta-heart.”—NPR
"Those looking for complex fantasy will enjoy and look for the next installment."—School Library Connection
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Top customer reviews
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Traci Chee’s THE READER is a mesmerizing fantasy about the power of words, stories, families, and friendships. Sefia is easily lovable, kind, and strong, and her story is anything but easy. She carries the grief of losing her family around with her and often feels that she could have prevented Nin being taken in the first place. Readers will see something of themselves in her as she discovers more about written words and the book she carries. Throughout the story, there are brief excerpts from the book she carries around, allowing you to really connect with what Sefia is experiencing.
Though romance is a small portion of the book, it demands to be discussed. Sefia and Archer have the sweetest slow-burn/friendship turned to love relationship I have ever read. There are some slow romances where you want to characters to kiss at every turn, and there are some, even more rare for me because I love kissing scenes, where you would happily revel in any scene with both of them, whether they’re just hunting for food or sitting silently, enjoying each other’s company. Sefia and Archer are both heartbreakingly vulnerable, and the way they learn to lean on each other is nearly tear-inducing.
A book about a book, a young woman learning to read while saving her remaining family, a boy whose hands are tough but heart is soft, and an endearing and existential pirate crew come together to make the fantastic experience that is THE READER.
"But books are curious objects. They have the power to trap, transport, and even transform you if you are lucky. But in the end, books—even magic ones—are only objects pieced together from paper and glue and thread. That was the fundamental truth the readers forgot. How vulnerable the book really was. To fire. To the damp. To the passage of time. And to theft."
Sefia has been on the run with her Aunt Non since the death of her father. She has no idea who she is running from but knows what they want. They want the strange rectangular object her parents had hidden away. This object is a book.
Nin is kidnapped one day and Sefia must find her. The only clue appears to be the symbol on the book. Sefia teaches herself to read the book through her golden magic. On her adventures to find Nin, she rescues a boy. The boy was kidnapped by Serakeen, who has been kidnapping boys and fighting them against each other.
Sefia and the boy vow to stick together to find Nin and to take down whoever is behind all of this.
The book is full of magic, library apprentices, assassins, pirates and adventure. It was very unique and interesting. It was full of beautiful quotes about books and stories.
I can't wait to see where Chee takes the story from here.
A recipe unlike any, as Chee managed to gift us with fresh ideas despite using plot devices any reader of fantasy would recognize: the quest, deception, a child that is so much more than meets the eye, a journey over different lands, searching for people and answers. However, the author succeeded in making all of this new again.
So captivating. So strikingly beautiful. If I could award it extra stars, I'd do so in an instant. Get it. Read it. Enjoy this most rare love affair between yourself, and words on a page that become so much more than the mere sum of their parts.