A stunning debut set in a world where reading is unheard-of, perfect for fans ofInkheartand Shadow and Bone Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.
With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent.
The Reader is a creative fantasy with convoluted storytelling that takes a little time to get used to. There is the story of Sefia who is on a quest to save her aunt and get vengeance for her family with the help of Archer, a mute young man she rescues. There is also the story of Lon, a young man who becomes an Apprentice Librarian and the story of the legendary pirate Captain Reed and his crew. There are a lot of characters and various settings to take in but in the end all of the stories mesh together in a way that (mostly) makes sense.
Sefia is used to being on the run since her dad died. She and "Aunt" Nin travel from place to place ahead of whoever it is that killed Sefia's father. When Nin is captured, Sefia is on her own. She stumbles across Archer on her search and the two of them form a friendship even though he can't speak. Sefia is determined to reach Nin but she isn't always cautious about tracking down information which gets her into trouble. I found Sefia to be frustrating at times because she is so open and naive for someone with experience of being on the run from enemies. She is both brave and rash in her actions. She is smart enough to basically teach herself to read but yet she doesn't show any caution in confronting enemies she doesn't understand. She reminded me a little of Arya Stark!
I enjoyed the stories about Captain Reed but then I do like pirate stories and movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Princess Bride. At first it was confusing to figure out how his story fit with Sefia's and why it was important. I am looking forward to finding out more about him hopefully in the sequel.
The magical world is never fully explained. I still have many questions. Why are books so rare and what is the purpose of the shadowy organization in charge of everything? I hope more answers will be found in the next book.
I was expecting something a little more like Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine or Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan but The Reader reminded me more of Soundless by Richelle Mead. Overall I enjoyed this fantasy though I think readers who are new to fantasy or not as patient to let the story unfold may find themselves giving up on it which would be a shame. They'd be missing out on a great story.
Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley