Series: Sea of Ink and Gold #2
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on November 7th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic, Romance, Diversity
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Having barely escaped the clutches of the Guard, Sefia and Archer are back on the run, slipping into the safety of the forest to tend to their wounds and plan their next move. Haunted by painful memories, Archer struggles to overcome the trauma of his past with the impressors, whose cruelty plagues him whenever he closes his eyes. But when Sefia and Archer happen upon a crew of impressors in the wilderness, Archer finally finds a way to combat his nightmares: by hunting impressors and freeing the boys they hold captive.
With Sefia’s help, Archer travels across the kingdom of Deliene rescuing boys while she continues to investigate the mysterious Book and secrets it contains. But the more battles they fight, the more fights Archer craves, until his thirst for violence threatens to transform him from the gentle boy Sefia knows to a grim warrior with a cruel destiny. As Sefia begins to unravel the threads that connect Archer’s fate to her parents’ betrayal of the Guard so long ago, she and Archer must figure out a way to subvert the Guard’s plans before they are ensnared in a war that will pit kingdom against kingdom, leaving their future and the safety of the entire world hanging in the balance.
Note: This is the sequel to The Reader, which you can find my review here. It will contain minor spoilers!
WHAT. A. STORY.
Traci Chee does it again with her clever writing, multifaceted characters, and heart-aching storyline(s). The Speaker starts from where The Reader leaves off, but everything is much more intense: Sefia’s feelings towards her family’s past; Archer’s lust for blood after being surrounded by violence for so long; and the politics that they become embroiled in. Chee is so talented in writing multiple storylines that all come together in the end. While I found myself more interested in Sefia and Archer’s stories, she makes every plot and adventure worth the read. In this review I’ll introduce each of the three plot lines that readers can look forward to, as well as the usual details that I go through.
Was it enough to live on in legend if the legends were lies?
Captain Reed and his crew are faced with a trial as the pirate Serakeen keeps terrorizing the ocean. The crew is composed of outlaws, but they may possibly be enough to stop the rising force of the Guard and their goal to reunite the kingdoms under one rule. You can feel his weary bones getting tired of running and getting ready to take a stand back. I love the details that Chee adds about the loyalty of the crew, who are like family, and the interactions with the other outlaws. Reed’s chapters really capture the atmospheric setting of the sea and you can’t help but get swept up in all the action and adventure of his chapters.
‘Love what’s in front of you, right now, because now is all you have.’
The next subplot is one with new characters who are connected to old characters introduced in book 1. Arcadimon works for the Guard and is plotting to kill his king, Eduoar, who happens to be the boy he loves. Legend has it that the Corabelli kings and the ones the love are all fated to die. The particular plot is both an aching and charming story of two best friends who realize their love for each other as they decide how to proceed with the political power that each holds in their hand.
Would love and cleverness and nerve be enough to beat the Book?
And change both their fates?
And my favorite plot to follow: Sefia and Archer’s. I love how their love for each other was so strong in this book, even as many obstacles stood in the way (both physically and mentally). While they’re on the run from the Guard due to having the Book, they come across a band of Impressors and rescue the kids they captured, who join their ragtag crew. The family they created was so loyal and wholesome, but each victory against the Impressor makes Archer one step closer to becoming the boy of the prophecy – one who will lead the Army and die shortly afterwards. While he’s fighting – both the Impressors who imprison boys and the nightmares of the ones he’s killed – Sefia is learning more and more about her powers, and the Illumination magic system. These aspects of the story are well-thought out and I LOVE how everything connects to each other. I can’t describe how wonderful Chee’s writing is, and how even though the pace may be on the slow side (despite the action), the immersive world is worth the read.
BUT CAN WE WITH THE ROMANCE.
Although there are couples here or there (and LGBTQ+ couples that are added naturally, yay!), Sefia and Archer are the ship of the ships. Their love for each other really shone in this book – through their actions, their thoughts, and the way they wanted to change for the better because of the other. Some of their decisions were really heartbreaking, but you know it happened with good intentions in mind. I’ve seen readers speak about ridiculous actions that Sefia did, but I think they were 100% justified. I understood her thinking at the time, and I really thought it helped progress her character arc. We discover more about Archer’s past, and the alternating third person limited POV’s get readers into his head. Certain parts of the story and their relationship made my heart ache, but in the most wholesome of ways. They’re strong individually, but work extremely well together as they work against the Guard.
The Speaker is one of those books that you open and automatically become engrossed in the story. I honestly couldn’t put it down until I got to the end of the book. If you didn’t enjoy The Reader, it might not be for you because it follows the steady pace and multiple storylines of the previous book. But I personally adored The Reader and thought this was an exceptionally strong sequel. Following the characters, from Sefia to Reed to Eduoar, was an incredibly journey from beginning to end. Fantasy readers must get ahold of this lesser-known YA fantasy series. The gorgeous writing, multifaceted story, and exceptional characters make it an unforgettable book.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you Traci Chee for the review copy!