About the Book

Title: The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1)
Published: 2016
Series: The Reader
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Patchwork
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Talky Talk: Power of Words
Bonus Factors: Pirates, Book Love, Series Starter
Anti-Bonus Factor: Child Fighting
Relationship Status: So Glad I Swiped Right

Cover Story: Patchwork

I am super pleased to see a POC on this cover. That said, I’m not a fan of the strange patchwork overlay. I think it’s supposed to be pages of the book, but the way they’re curling around just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

The Deal:

Since she can remember, Sefia’s lived a life of secrecy. She knew her parents were hiding from something, but never realized the amount of danger they were all in until her father was brutally murdered in their home. Armed with little more than a strange rectangular object, Sefia and her “aunt” Nin go on the run. Years later, Nin is captured by the same people that murdered Sefia’s father, and she vows to rescue Nin. Along the way, Sefia teaches herself necessary survival skills, and discovers that the strange rectangular object she’s kept hidden has many things to teach her as well. The first being: it’s a book. 

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Sefia is a brilliant and dedicated young woman. She not only teaches herself to hunt and survive in the wilderness, but she teaches herself to read—in a world where no one reads—and realizes just how powerful the written word can be. She’s willing to put her neck on the line to save people she doesn’t know. And she can go toe to toe with dangerous outlaws and pirates.

If I hadn’t gotten to know her, I might hate her for her apparent perfection, or roll my eyes at how overwhelmingly awesome she seems. But getting to know her through reading The Reader, I realized that she has flaws just like anyone else. Not too many, but enough to make her a definite BFF contender.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Sefia is a loner, and fears for the lives of anyone who gets close to her. But sometimes relationships sneak up on people. And in the case of The Reader, there’s a delicious slow burn that I hope means good things to come in future books.

Talky Talk: Power of Words

It’s hard to imagine a world without books. But in The Reader, Traci Chee imagines just that. It’s a world filled with larger-than-life heroes (or anti-heroes), from pirates whose adventures are those of myth to assassins who work for mysterious organizations. It’s a world built through stories, but those stories are spoken aloud and passed from person to person. It’s an extremely rich world … but it’s an illiterate one. However, that doesn’t mean the people of Chee’s world—Kelanna—don’t realize the import of words once they discover their existence. And in Kelanna, words are literal magic.

A note about the book’s style: The Reader is divided into various POVs, which can be a bit confusing at first. It’s not entirely clear who’s who, when’s when, or what’s a story and what’s “real life.” Eventually, all becomes more clear (and intertwined).

Bonus Factor: Pirates

Captain Hook on his ship from Once Upon a Time

Although they’re outlaws, the pirates in The Reader are honorable and fascinating individuals. We meet them through stories Sefia finds in The Book, and I’d honestly love to read an entire book about them and their fantastical adventures.

Bonus Factor: Book Love

A young boy hugs a pile of books.

As soon as Sefia discovers what The Book holds, she’s immediately in love.

It was as if, all this time, she’d been locked out, catching glimpses of some magical world through the crack beneath a door.

As someone who’s loved books for longer than I can rightly remember, it was awesome reading about someone discovering how amazing it can be for the very first time.

Bonus Factor: Series Starter

Stack of YA book series

I’m left with a lot of questions at the end of The Reader, but I’m really excited that there are more books to come in which I will (hopefully) find my answers.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Child Fighting

Daniel LaRusso fighting in a tournament in Karate Kid

It isn’t a huge part of the main story of The Reader, but Sefia runs into a young man who was stolen from his life and forced to fight other young men … to the death. It’s a bit of brutality that adds a (horrible) realistic element to Chee’s fantastical world.

Relationship Status: So Glad I Swiped Right

I was totally intrigued by your profile, Book, but I’ve been burned in the past. Thankfully, your blurb wasn’t filled with hyperbole, and you actually turned out to be much more than I was expecting. I look forward to spending more time with you in the future.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Reader is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband and their dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.