CW’s: Violence, Murder
Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.
Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.
Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.
“It wouldn’t give me more time here, but if I was part of something like that, maybe my life wouldn’t be so small. Maybe I could make a difference before my time ran out. Maybe I’d matter.”
The Good Things
📘 The world building was so fascinating. This was probably one of my favorite things about the book, because the premise and the world its set in, is absolutely amazing. I love the idea of this world where everyone is illiterate and no one actually knows about books, everything is passed on by spoken stories and legends, it’s the only proof of someone who is left. However, there are a few Readers, even though we don’t know a lot of them, as this order that controls the books and library has different sections. There are librarians and hunters , so I still don’t know how it’s decided who you become. E.g. Lon is recruited because he has some kind of sight, but we don’t know terribly much about how everyone else was chosen for their position. This is something that’s hopefully going to be explored next book. However, we do know that reading is the key to unlocking the magic in this world, which is probably why it’s forbidden. There are different stages of magic and the better you get, the more you can control the current of magic that surrounds our world. If you can read, you can also see into this world which is golden and allows you to read the past and some special people can even see into the future. There are a lot of things you can do with magic and it’s really unique. I’m looking forward to getting to know more about this world and the background story about how it came that magic and therefore reading was forbidden. Was it always this way? There are a lot of questions I still need to have answered.
📘 I loved all the clues throughout the book. I thought that it was a great idea and a unique way of formatting the book. There are a few clues and extras that make the book even more exciting. There is a poem hidden in the book and e.g. one page is crossed out, there is later a page that looks like it’s burning. I feel like I haven’t found all clues though, so I need to reread this book, a lot because I want to get to all the clues. It’s quite addicting, because once you start, you really want to solve this puzzle. The author said that some really hidden clues haven’t been found my everyone. I really hope that the next book has clues as well!
📘 I really liked Archer & the Captain + his crew. They were both my favorite characters of the book, because I found them to be complex and engaging! Archer had such an interesting background story and I really hurt for him, as he had to experience so much abuse, horror and death in his short life. However, despite being socialized to be a killer, he has a soft heart and is fiercely loyal. Throughout the book he finally finds freedom and someone who cares for him, which makes him slowly be able to trust other again and feel valued. That being said I liked his relationship with Sefia and while I don’t necessarily ship it, I respect that it was so slowly build up and not rushed at all. I also really, really want him to be protected, because I have a bad feeling about what could happen in the next book – Archer is too precious please don’t hurt him!!! The Captain is really cool as well, I loved reading about his stories and then seeing him ourselves, because he has an intriguing life and I love how he values his crew. He is full of adventures and despite having to be rough at times is a really good guy. Even though his crew isn’t in focus as much as he is, I loved seeing all of them and would like to see them again in the next book. The crew just makes for such a good dynamic and there are many characters present that I would love to see more upfront and close.
📘 I liked how things came together in the end. This is one of those books that sets up everything to come together in the end. As the story goes on we explore the world and learn so much more, getting one bit closer to the full picture. I loved seeing storylines of different characters cross and knew that the end would reveal how everything was going to interconnect! The end had quite a few revelations, some that I had not guessed before, making it even more intriguing to get to the second book, because we still don’t know a lot.
📘 The book is very diverse. Generally, the characters are PoC, I think most like Asians, because they they share the similar features. Nothing more concrete is really classified by the author or the story, so I cannot really tell you more. Let me know if you know something more detailed! Archer is mute due to his trauma (note: some people have found it harmful that he’s able to speak again in the end. I cannot really speak on the rep myself) and the Captain is hinted at having OCD (see: his counting habits that he constantly shows throughout the story).
The Bad Things
📘 I couldn’t really connect to Sefia. Like I really wanted to, but I felt this strange detachment towards her that was unfortunate. To clarify, I didn’t hate or anything, but I didn’t really care about her either. This might have to do with the sudden 1 year time jump right at the beginning, that I hadn’t expected. I felt like it took away our chance to see Sefia grow and learn how to survive – overall it made us miss out on her most important character Arc. Therefore, I felt a bit disjointed from her before and father her aunt was taken. She was different without us having witnessed it, which was something that didn’t sit well with me. It made me unable to really relate to her, because suddenly she had herself together when we had seen her all alone a chapter before. In my opinion, it was a mistake to make that timejump just so that Sefia could be strong and resourceful, because it happened on the expense of being able to relate to her.
📘 The book was very slow-paced. I do think that how I wasn’t getting attached to a lot of characters was a bigger problem, but the slow pace amplified it greatly. I don’t have any problem with a slow plot if the characters are amazing and I live to see their dynamics, but here it was paired with characters I had trouble connecting to. I didn’t find the boo tedious or boring, but I felt a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more action and that this huge, amazing world was largely left unexplored. I liked to appreciate the world, but I feel like other readers might find this book a bit more tedious, which can quickly lead to abandoning the book. Therefore, I felt like a faster pace could have improved my overall enjoyment of the book.
📘 The other characters were nice but missing that spark. Apart from Archer & the Captain the other characters didn’t really evoke a response from me. I felt like this was my main problem with the book, because if I’m not attached to the characters, I have a hard time absolutely loving a book. I did like this one, but I still felt disappointed with how the characters were written. I wanted to like Lon, but I couldn’t bring myself to care about him, which might be due to the fact that he wasn’t in the book as often as I expected. I also really didn’t like his relationship with the Huntress, it was the typical “boy is obsessed with distant, unreachable girl” trope, which I dislike a lot. Therefore, I wasn’t as invested in his POV. Another character that gets a POV is Tanin and while I liked the mystery of figuring out who she was … she didn’t stand out to me as a particularly intriguing character. And while I did like the Captain’s crew, we didn’t get much time with them to truly appreciate each crew member – they were too many characters to get an insight in all of them. Overall, I felt it would have been better to have less minor characters and rather a few complex supporting characters.
IN CONCLUSION: The Reader impressed with its vivid, interesting world that is just waiting to be explored and contains a lot of clues the readers can hunt for. While I loved the premise and world of the book I couldn’t connect with most of the characters, especially as I felt like there were too many ones with little time each. Furthermore, the book is very slow-paced, which might not be for everyone.
Have you read The Reader? What’s your fave book about books? 📘