Monday, May 27, 2019

Review: The Reader by Traci Chee

The Reader by Traci Chee
The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1)
By Traci Chee
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

To Sum It Up: In Kelanna, reading is unheard of, although legend says that an object known as a book holds the key to wielding powerful magic for those select few with the skill to use it. Sefia knows only too well how dangerous this mysterious object is; her father died hiding a book, and Sefia and her aunt Nin have been on the run from his killers since his murder. Now it seems those same people have kidnapped Nin, and Sefia is determined to save her aunt and avenge her father.

Review: A book called The Reader, about a world without books? What a promising premise! And a fantasy, to boot? Check and check!

And so it was with much anticipation that I finally got around to The Reader. The story follows Sefia, a young woman on the run with her fiery aunt, Nin, and in possession of a mysterious object that Sefia’s father died protecting—what Sefia later realizes is a book.

Shortly after the novel opens, the same people who killed Sefia’s father kidnap Nin, and Sefia embarks on a desperate search to find her aunt, despite still being in serious danger herself because she has the Book. A rather standard quest for vengeance with a rather unmemorable heroine ensues.

I became frustrated with Sefia quickly. Not far into the story, the book casually mentions that she’s spent a whole year looking for Nin and her abductors without any progress. A whole year passes in the span of a sentence! Sefia also teaches herself to read at what feels like an unrealistic pace. I think it’s a little ironic how fast Sefia picks up reading when the pacing of The Reader is laborious. At 15% in, I was still trying to work out what was going on plot-wise.

In addition to murky world-building, what really made this book confusing to me was the stories within the main story. While you later find out how they’re connected, for most of the book I found switching between the multiple narratives disruptive. Why are there now pirates in the story? Who is this Lon guy and why should I care about him? By the time the book explained the pirates and Lon, it was too late; the window for building my investment in them had passed.

I will say that the camaraderie among the pirates was well written. It’s evident that Captain Reed and the crew of the Current of Faith are a tight-knit group in a way that only surviving some harrowing adventures together can make them. I might have even enjoyed an entire book centered around their exploits on the high seas.

I’m sad to say that this was a disappointing read for me. While there are some very pretty passages of prose, the tedious pacing, lackluster characters, and jumping back and forth between multiple story lines made this a tough book to finish. I loved the premise so much, though, that I kept going, hoping that the story would pick up. Alas, it did not.

All in All: This book had so much potential, but I felt it didn’t dive into the books are forbidden/magic aspect enough, and that was the reason why The Reader appealed to me in the first place.

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