Booklist Reviews 2016 August #1
*Starred Review* Sefia's father drilled her on what to do if they were ever in danger, but she never expected to return home one day and find him brutally murdered. She escapes with one vital thing: a heavy square wrapped in cloth, containing bound pages with intricate symbols. It's a book, but reading in Sefia's kingdom is a skill limited to an elite few, and now that this precious volume is in her possession, she's in grave danger. Sefia spends years on the run with her aunt, Nin, until the day when the murderer catches up to them and violently steals Nin away. With the help of a mute boy she saves from a slave ring and the magic she finds in the words of the book, she seeks out her parents' killer. Chee's debut, the first in a projected series, is a stunning piece of storytelling. She deftly weaves together disparate elements, such as magic, fighting rings, swashbuckling pirates, assassins, and a kingdom beset by war, where books are illegal. Additionally, she seamlessly integrates a book within a book, as Sefia learns to read and discovers the powers of her precious cargo, and astute readers will notice hidden messages in the novel's clever design. With evocative language, fascinating world building, multifaceted characters, and a compelling plot, this is a series fantasy lovers will want to sink their teeth into. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2017 Spring
Sefia, in possession of a strange object called a "book," learns that writing and reading are the keys to powerful magic. Interspersed and eventually converging with Sefia's story are episodic tales of Captain Reed and his pirate crew. This complex series-opener introduces a richly built fantasy world and a courageous female protagonist. A coded message to readers and visual effects amplify the metafictional elements. Copyright 2017 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
PW Reviews 2016 June #4
After 15-year-old orphan Sefia is separated from her aunt, she sets out on a rescue mission. Determined to learn the truth about her past and the rectangular object she's spent her life hiding, Sefia eventually discovers that the item—bound paper covered in symbols—is a book. Books, reading, and writing are unheard of in the land of Kelanna, but Sefia is certain that this book holds the answers she seeks. She is joined in her quest by a mute, nameless boy, whom she rescues from a life of forced cage fighting. The book Sefia carries, which initially seems to be filled with stories and myths, becomes increasingly mysterious when she learns that the people and accounts detailed within are true. Chee's debut is an intricate, multilayered reading experience, but the author avoids leading readers along too transparently, trusting them to puzzle together the pieces surrounding the mystery of Sefia's past. An exploration of self-determination and the magic of the written word, Sefia's story is an absorbing introduction to the Sea of Ink and Gold series. Ages 12–up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Agency. (Sept.)[Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC