Book Review: THE READER (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee

THE READER proves the power of books in a more literal sense!

Traci Chee’s The Reader takes places in a world that is impossible to imagine for many of us – a world without books. Where our protagonist Sefia is from, reading is unheard of and books are unknown to most of society. Those who can read are kept away from the rest of the world guarding the strange rectangular objects known as books. However, Sefia possesses one of these books, and must use it to save her Aunt Nin from kidnappers. Ever since her parents died years ago, Nin is the only family she has left, so Sefia and a mysterious mute boy named Archer must work together to figure out the secrets of the book.

The idea of this story interested me. I mean, a world without reading? How is that even possible? But what’s even cooler is those that can read have special powers. Readers possess a wide variety of powers, from being able to read people, literally, to slowing down time and changing outcomes in their favor. The battle scenes were my favorite part of this book, because the powers of a reader were so cool!

Sefia’s world is vast, with the story taking place on the high seas, in deserts, and within forests. There are so many characters, from pirates to assassins. I particularly liked how the book Sefia had was utilized in the story to tell stories about the other characters, such as Captain Reed. But I felt that the vastness of the world was overwhelming at times. When it came to the differing point-of-views, some of them made no sense. I did not get how they all connected. At one point, there was one perspective from a random officer and I didn’t understand the point of his chapter. Even in the end, when there were some revelations about who Sefia was and who her parents were, most of it remained unclear.

The world-building of The Reader was murky and there were some plot holes. It’s never fully explained how society functions without reading. It seems like it would come up in reading maps (for the pirates) or reading signs. The Guard, a group of which the readers are part of, does not fully reveal why reading would be disastrous for the world. This is a definitely book in which you’ll need to read the sequels in order to fully enjoy and understand.

In regards to the characters, I felt that the side characters overshadowed the main ones. Captain Reed and his crew, with their tales from the book, were the most exciting for me to read. Lon and Mareah’s story was tragic, but also interesting. Sefia and Archer mostly walked around in search of clues, and all that walking was dull for me.

Overall, The Reader was an okay read, despite the points of confusion. Giving the readers the power to actually read people and have magical abilities is a cool concept that I hope to see explored more in the sequel!

So, if you’re looking for a story where books come to life, then The Reader is just for you.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

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If you’d like to read The Reader, you can order the book through Amazon now!

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