Published September 13th, 2016 by Putnam
Sea of Ink and Gold #1
“If you’re reading this, then maybe you know you ought to read everything. And maybe you know you ought to read deeply. Because there’s witchery in these words and spellwork in the spine.”
I received this book in the September Books on Dragonwings subscription box (which you can find my review for HERE).
This was also the first book that I have ever formally read with a buddy before, and I enjoyed the whole experience! While overall the book wasn’t that great for me (more on that later) I really liked messaging Jennifer back and forth throughout the entire book. Her input on certain plot points and characters was not only helpful when I found myself confused, but also it was fun. So, thank you Jen! I loved our buddy read!
Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.
Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.
My first impression of The Reader, is that the writing and the flow of the book remind me more of a middle grade novel, rather than the YA category that it is shelved in. Now, there are some violent and semi-graphic attributes to the story that would make me hesitant to say that it is actually middle grade, but I was just commenting on the simplicity of the writing and sentence structure.
But the book is set up really interestingly. For example, there are words next to random page numbers that form a mini story…inside of the actual story. Some pages look like pages that had been torn out of a book, other pages look burnt, others have words that are blacked out or faded. There was a lot of work that went into the aesthetic of the book, but the plot and story of The Reader fell a bit flat for me.
I really liked the magic aspect of the story, but I didn’t really understand it. There’s magical light! And gold! And lots of…blinking? It was like the author was just teasing us with the possibilities of the magic that lies beneath the surface of everything in this world, but is saving the good stuff for later books. Which ultimately left me pretty frustrated.
Maybe it was because I was zoning out too much and too often while reading this, but the whole plot line to me felt disjointed. I was confused (more confusion, that’s not good!) about what was going on more often than I was aware, and I honestly have NO idea what the “end game” is going to be. By the time I got to the end of the book, all I wanted was for it to just end. EXCEPT OF COURSE, the ending was actually really interesting and tied a lot of things together that I was wondering about throughout the course of the story. I just wish that the author wouldn’t have crammed all of the i
nformation in, to tie together all three plot lines, in literally the last 9 pages of the book.
Not everything about The Reader did I dislike though. There are pirates! Everything that takes place on the sea, the pirates, and in particular, Captain Reed, were hands down my favorite part of the story. Traci Chee did a fabulous job bringing those characters to life, I felt like Captain Reed and his OCD was so well done, I wish they were in more of the story.
Which brings me to my final point: Chee is a great writer. Some of her passages were so beautiful and the words were almost like poetry. I just think the plot got a little bit away from her… or at least for me. I can’t say if I will continue with this story based on my initial boredom, but at least there were some great descriptions I can walk away with.
“Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story. “Once”