"The Reader" is an intriguing YA fantasy that follows a girl named Sefia. Her parents hid her in a secret room through the fireplace. Her mother died when she was young. When she finds her father brutally murdered and burned in their house, Sefia knows what to do- she was trained for it from a young age. She heads to her room and through another secret door to Nin, her neighbor and aunt. However, she also finds an item hidden there by her father- a book.
For a long time, she and Nin are on the run. Everything changes after Nin is taken, and Sefia embarks on a journey to save the only family member she has left. She opens the book and learns to read- luckily, her mother had taught her through play with blocks when she was little. She reads fantastical stories about Librarians and pirates, including about Captain Reed.
In the kingdom, young boys are disappearing. They are captured, their necks are scarred and then they are forced into a battle to the death. Sefia comes across one such boy being kept in a crate by the men who took him. Finding an opportunity, she frees him and he willingly follows her. He does not speak (perhaps cannot remember how), and so she calls him Archer. This book follows not only the stories Sefia reads from the book, but also their quest to find answers for both of them.
At first, I found myself getting lost in all the stories and characters- there are a lot of potential people to follow and remember, perhaps 4 or 5 storylines within the actual book. It's tough to remember where you were when you put it down and pick it back up. I think this would be better read in one sitting as a result. By about 30-40% of the way through, I found myself enjoying it more and better able to follow the multiple storylines. Captain Reed and his crew were probably my favorites- many are special/skilled and they have interesting adventures.
Sefia was a good main character overall, but I felt that we got only minimal answers in this first book. There is little closure, so you definitely will need the next book. A minor romance develops between Sefia and Archer, and I am curious to see how this plays out in the future. Overall, I enjoyed the read and would continue with the series.
Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.