- Author: Traci Chee
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publication Date: November 13, 2018
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Series: The Reader Trilogy #3
CONTENT WARNING: death, grief, violence, blood, trauma, gore, murder
As the Book had always prophesied, the Red War has begun and is hurtling towards a quick and bloody end. Unless Sefia can find some way to stop Archer from being drawn into the war, some way to stop him from leading an army and dying, Archer’s days are numbered.
When hiding out and letting the war pass them by becomes an unlikely option, Sefia uses her powers to change the fortunes of the island nations still fighting against the Guard to keep Archer out of danger. But when her magic alone is not enough, Sefia summons the most formidable magic in Kelanna, the power of the Scribes, thought to be lost to history. If she can control it, she can rewrite the story, save Archer, and live a long, happy life with the boy she loves. But, too late, she discovers there’s an even greater magic that she may be defenseless against: the power of the Storyteller.
Desperate to win her own war against the Book and fate itself, Sefia does the only thing she can think of to give Archer a fighting change: She betrays her friends, setting into motion another heartrending prophecy. No matter what she does, the Book seems to always win—for what is written always comes to pass.
This final entry into the Reader trilogy is as action-packed and enthralling as its predecessors, with Sefia and Archer facing their greatest enemy yet—the Book. There will be treachery, assassinations, and retribution as they fight for their romance and a story that ends not in tragedy, but in triumph.
I’ve loved each book in this series more than the last, and we reach the culmination in this book. There’s also some easter eggs in this book, including a note to Sefia within the pages of the Book within the book, ink spreading across the pages, words fading as characters teleport, and a secret message if you collect the words scattered next to various page numbers throughout the story (which I have) and it spells out this ominous message:
“This is a story as vast as the sea, but on its waves, you’ll never be free. No matter your course, your future is set, and destiny laughs as she tightens the net. Words to Kelannans are breath on a glass, but if it is written, it will come to pass. Is your sight growing clearer, the closer you look? The book is a world, for the world is a book.”
Sefia and Archer are back along with some of my favorite (and least favorite) characters from earlier books, prepared for the final showdown. Sefia, Archer, the bloodletters, Captain Reed and the crew of the Current of Faith, and the rest of their misfit allies are prepared to do what it takes to defeat the Guard if they have to, but in the meantime, Sefia wants to do whatever she can to avoid the battles altogether so that she can save Archer’s life. She is working her hardest to subvert the prophecy, but every effort so far has shown her that what is written always comes to pass.
Sefia is torn between two conflicting emotions, and vacillates between them for much of the story. There’s a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, since she’s prophesied to be the most powerful sorcerer the world has ever known, and so far she’s shown that to be true. Everything that she’s done has been for a positive reason, yet she struggles with how quickly it turns to being harmful. Mainly because the future is already written in the Book and can’t be changed. And what’s written is that no matter what she does, it’s not going to be enough to save Archer. So she struggles with not being able to be a savior, especially now that she’s let people get close to her heart.
“After Nin died, she’d closed herself off. She told herself she’d done it to protect other people from getting hurt, but now she knew she’d done it to protect herself. If you don’t love anyone, you don’t get hurt when they’re taken from you. But Archer had changed her. Archer had cracked her armor, and now she loved so, so many people.”
The other thing that she struggles with is that she isn’t strong enough to change things. And that the fact that she isn’t strong enough is going to get people killed. As if she would be able to change the Book if only she knew more, or was stronger. And while I understood her internal conflict, and watching it play out externally was intriguing, the internal monologue, and the dialogue that she had about it did grow a bit tiresome since it was so repetitive for so much of the story. As usual, Archer was the voice of reason, constantly reassuring her of how much she meant to him, regardless of her powers and her abilities, simply because of who she was.
“‘I didn’t follow you because you were strong. I followed you because you were brave and smart and kind. I didn’t believe in you because you had magic. I believed in you because you were compassionate and resourceful and too stubborn to give up.’ He kissed her hair. ‘I don’t love you because you’re powerful. I love you because you’re a good friend and a better partner and by far the best person I have ever met.’”
This story had great action and pacing. While there were so many characters, it felt like there was a lot of growth for many of them. Archer felt a little stagnant in this story, trapped in his trauma without a lot of resolution for him, but Sefia, the bloodletters, Captain Reed, and even more of the minor characters from earlier books who played a larger role in this story showed so much growth in this one. However, I have to admit that I was absolutely let down by the ending! After going through so much with these characters through three full books, I was heartbroken by how it ended, and I must admit that I feel personally victimized to some degree by Chee. But even so, I’m even sadder about letting this story go, and it’s definitely getting added to my list of book series that I kind of wish had another book to follow up later on.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 14
Categories: Book Review