My Summary: Sefia is alone. Her father has been murdered and her aunt has been kidnapped by a mysterious foe. Intent on revenge, she sets out to find this enemy and rescue her aunt. The only thing she has besides her wits and weapons is a mysterious book that her enemies desperately want to get their hands on. As she journeys on, she gains friends and allies, discovers the secrets of the book, and uncovers earth-shattering truths about her past.
Warning: Contains spoilers regarding romantic subplot developments!
This book has a little bit of everything I love: kickass heroine, cute friendships, wholesome romance, intense fights, swashbuckling adventure, awesome powers, and book nerdery.
In our world, literacy rates were low in most places up until very recent history due to inaccessibility, but a world where almost nobody knows how to read, or even knows what reading is, or what a book is? That’s a dystopia to me. I live for books and reading.
The great thing about this premise, however, is that it is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the magic of reading through the perspective of a first-time reader. And that magic is both literal as well as figurative. Along with the affective power of experiencing a story, the act of reading gives characters literal power to change the physical world around them. I am utterly enchanted by this concept.
437 pages is a fairly long book, but The Reader didn’t drag at all. The plot raced along, and not at the expense of the characters or worldbuilding. In a way, The Reader is almost like four books in one since it interweaves four different narrative arcs. The arcs seem self-contained and unrelated in the beginning, but they soon begin to converge in a series of surprising revelations and plot twists. There is some Inception level stuff in there. It also gets meta. I don’t want to spoil anything major, so I’ll leave it at that.
Another cool thing about The Reader is that there are things in the book beyond the main text: fingerprint smudges, blacked out passages, text that fades to blankness as it goes across the page, hidden messages, etc. These touches add a layer of enjoyment to the reading experience. I honestly love the formatting of the book.
Romance is often the least important part of a story to me, but Sefia and Archer’s relationship gave me cavities with how Sweet and Pure it was. It was wonderful to watch how they started out as complete strangers and gradually built their way toward a friendship and relationship built on mutual trust. They have each other’s backs in combat and are also emotional support for each other when dealing with their respective traumas. They are each hurting deeply but find it in themselves to show kindness to the other person. This is my ideal kind of relationship. *gets out tissues*
If you can’t tell, I’m in love with this book and despairing over how long I have to wait for the sequel(s).
Recommendation: There is no reason not to read this book. Read it! You won’t regret it.
P.S. I adore the cover illustration/design. It’s one of my favorites from this year.