The Reader is a wonderful and gripping fantasy adventure, pitched at YA but bound to pick up other readers, both younger and older. The writing is lovely, the pacing perfection and it even has stories within stories (one of my favourite things in books) and pirates! On a quest to the edge of the world!
Sefia grew up in hiding, never allowed to play with other children, taught to escape to her Aunt Nin’s through a secret passage if anything happens to her father. When he’s killed, a strange leather-bound object falls from behind the secret door. It’s the Book, and though Sefia doesn’t know it at the time, the book and its magic are sought by some very dangerous people.
And so begins the chase: Sefia hunts her hunters, accompanied by a broken boy, Archer, through forests and open seas. Sofia teaches herself to read and learns the Book’s magic, finally learning the truth about her parent’s past.
I had quibbles: Sofia’s world is diverse, in an ‘everybody living in perfect harmony way’ that doesn’t seemingly impact on politics. Mostly, people are described as Asian (straight black hair, pale or brown skin) but the pirate captain has blue eyes and Archer has freckles. Names, on the other hand, veer towards generic fantasy/European rather than being rooted in Asian culture.*
The war between different parts of the world isn’t explored in depth, and I remained unclear about exactly why Sefia’s parents stole the book, the act at the very heart of the story. But as the first of a trilogy, hopefully all will become clear.
A real treat for epic fantasy enthusiasts of 11+
- Here’s a Diversity in YA post where the author explains more about the world