THE SPEAKER, the second book in the Sea of Ink and Gold series, by Traci Chee

The Sea of Ink and Gold has to be one of my favorite series that’s come out in the past few years, and it shows that YA Fantasy continues to break the boundaries of what’s possible. THE SPEAKER is the second in the series, and like the first, it weaves together a beautiful narrative.

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.

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.

In our last interview, you said, “Part of what I love about THE READER is that the legendary and the magical are all sort of woven into the everyday fabric of the world, so you might find them anywhere.” In what ways are you able to determine what your stories need?

I think determining what a story needs is a different process for everyone, but for me, I go with my gut. I feel like, over the years I’ve studied and practiced and written, I’ve developed this sense that tells me when something isn’t working, or when something needs a new approach, or when something should be there but isn’t yet. Don’t have the feeling yet? Don’t worry—I believe you will. I certainly didn’t always have this extra sense, but the more I work on my craft, the stronger it seems to get, and the more I trust myself to know what’s right (or not right) for a story.

That’s definitely helpful! In THE SPEAKER we get to see a different side to Archer. What about his story was the most challenging to write and why? 

We get to know so much more about Archer in THE SPEAKER, as he tries to reconcile his past, his present, and his future. Like a lot of us, he’s figuring out who he is and who he wants to be… only that’s complicated by a history of violence (both perpetrated by and against him) and a prophecy about the boy he could become. For me, what was most challenging was writing his relationship to his traumatic past, because it’s so complex and so nuanced. It took me a lot of revision and a lot of great advice to pull that out of him, but ultimately I hope it makes him a flawed, nuanced, and fleshed-out character.

He certainly is. Anyone who pre-ordered THE SPEAKER from the following bookstores also received an inspirational notebook. In what ways do you feel inspirational notebooks can be helpful?

If you preordered THE SPEAKER through one of the independent bookstores listed on my website (, you received a custom journal emblazoned with a quote from the book: What is written comes to pass. As with the phrase “this is a book” in THE READER, this quote is repeated again and again in different contexts, changing meaning as the story goes on.

What I love about it in this context is that it makes the journal a perfect repository for all the goals, hopes, and dreams we might be scared to share anywhere else. What is written comes to pass is like a magical exhortation—if you write it, it will happen. If you allow yourself to wish it, it will come true. I think giving yourself permission to dream is HUGE. It’s the first step toward making those dreams a reality.

It is–and I’m already putting my notebook to good use.The third book in The Sea of Ink and Gold series comes out next year. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet? 

Let’s see… I can tell you that war is coming, a lot of people are going to die, and the title starts with “the” and ends with “-er”!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound