The Reader

Fifteen-year-old Sefia has been on the run for six years, ever since she discovered the brutal murder of her father and fled their home with "Aunt" Nin. After her mother's death years earlier, Sefia had known only her father and Nin. Hiding in the shadows from the faceless enemy who killed her father, Sefia has learned to hunt, steal and survive in the island kingdoms of Kelanna under Nin's tutelage. 

When Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is left searching for answers, starting with "the mysterious angular object" she discovered in her parents' house. It is a book, but she doesn't know it because the written word is unknown in Kelanna. As she slowly learns to read it, Sefia's mission becomes clear: "Learn what the book was for. Rescue Nin. And if she could, make them pay."

Traci Chee's debut YA fantasy, first in the Sea of Ink and Gold series, is wide in scope, a rich mine of overlapping stories and timelines. Sefia is a likable heroine, smart and headstrong yet hesitant enough to be believable. Still, it's the colorful side characters who steal the show. Though the timelines can be a bit unclear, the world-building Chee achieves is remarkable. The book's violence, while intermittent and never gratuitous, can be quite gruesome. Setting the stage for battles to come, and teasing the prospect of a prophesied Red War between the kingdoms, The Reader weaves golden threads through land, sea and the fabric of time in a complex web of powerful magic and dangerous words. --Kyla Paterno, former children's & YA book buyer

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