THE READER: Book One of The Sea of Ink and Gold, by Traci Chee
I’ve wanted to feature Traci Chee ever since I first saw the cover for THE READER. This kind of fiction is my favorite, because its imagination knows no bounds. This series also demonstrates the importance of story, and how it can shape destinies. The second book in the series, THE SPEAKER, comes out this November.
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.
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
According to your website bio, you feel most at home in the mountains. What about the outdoors resonates with you most?
There’s a lot I love about the outdoors–the smell of the trees, the feeling of looking out over vast spaces, the challenge of “I bet I can climb that”–but my favorite by far is the feeling of discovery, walking paths you haven’t yet walked, seeing vistas you haven’t yet seen. I love guessing what’s beyond the next bend in the trail and finding hidden pockets of beauty in unexpected places. The outdoors are full of wonders, and I love happening upon them.
That feeling of discovery is something everyone, including writers, can appreciate. And I love how THE READER explores layers of story and how books can reveal different mysteries. What is your favorite part of the world you’ve built?
Thank you! I’m really fond of the outlaws, the cowboy-pirates for whom the seas are the wild frontier, and I do love the characters, Sefia, Archer, Reed, even Tanin and beautiful, empty-headed Haldon Lac, but I think my favorite part of the world are the legendary objects secreted here and there. We’ve got Sefia’s book, of course, but there are also swords that drink blood, cursed guns, a gong that summons storms, a diamond necklace that takes as much as it gives… 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.
The sprinkling of unexpected detail is something I love too. Plus, THE READER’s cover is amazing, and I’m sure you’ve received many compliments on it. What, in your opinion, are the necessary elements of a book cover?
I’m also in love with the cover of THE READER, the glory of which is due entirely to the talents of designer Kristin Smith and illustrator Yohey Horishita. I couldn’t tell you what makes a good book cover, but in the case of THE READER, one of the things I love about it is that it feels like the book: The illustrations have this sweeping, almost overwhelming sense of magic to them, and you can tell from the way each of the settings all unfold from these gold pages that it’s an involved, multi-layered story. Then, of course, there’s the girl, who sometimes looks sorrowful, sometimes determined, sometimes “I’m out for revenge and death to anyone who gets in my way.”
Breathtaking. The sequel to THE READER, entitled THE SPEAKER, comes out this November. What are you able to tell us about it so far, if anything?
Without spoiling anything, I can say that the end of THE READER creates some deep fissures in what Sefia thought she knew about her world, and THE SPEAKER is all about cracking those fissures open and delving deeper into the mysteries about the book, the secret society that wants it, and Sefia’s connections to both of them. We also get an intense look at Archer–who he was and who he’s becoming–as he and Sefia try to figure out who they are to each other now that the truth is out. THE READER was essentially a small story about the two of them, and in THE SPEAKER their world is opening up… and not without some dire consequences. We learn more about Captain Reed’s quest for treasure and immortality, meet new characters (like a king and the best friend/love interest who is duty-bound to betray him), and watch as Sefia and Archer blunder toward destiny even as they try desperately to avoid it.
Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound
Pre-order: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound