Friday, January 04, 2008

Book Review: Skin Hunger


Skin Hunger
A Resurrection of Magic: Book One
by Kathleen Duey

Skin Hunger is a 2007 Cybils finalist.

Sadima has a special ability: she can understand animals. But Sadima doesn't dare tell her father or her older brother. When Sadima was born, her mother had a difficult birth. A charlatan magician, hired to help her, let her die instead, and stole the family's possessions. Sadima's father, left angry and bitter, hates all magicians and would never understand her abilities. Her brother just doesn't believe her.

Sadima lives a lonely life, isolated from the community and with only her brother for companionship. Until one day, she meets a man who not only understands her abilities but tells her that she is not alone. This man, Franklin, is a servant to a magician, Somiss, who is trying to restore magic to the world. As soon as Sadima is able, she travels to the city to live with Franklin and Somiss and help them with their work. But Somiss is very different than the gentle Franklin, and her life and work there turns out differently than she expected. What will be the price for restoring magic to the world?

In a story that alternates with Sadima's, a young man named Hahp is sent by his father to an academy to study magic. His father doesn't care if he learns magic; he just wants to get rid of Hahp. Hahp learns that there's definitely a steep price for magic, as life in the academy is harsh. The boys are given nothing to eat, and told that if they don't learn to make food by magic, they'll starve. Some may even die. Only one of the new students will become a magician, if any of them do. Will Hahp be the one? Does he even want to?

The two alternating stories seem to have nothing to do with each other, but as the book progresses, the link between them becomes apparent. More than that, each story reveals things about the other story. It's an incredibly compelling book, tightly plotted and well-written. It's dark and edgy; it draws you in and won't let you go.

Its compelling nature, though, creates a kind of a problem: every time it switched between the stories, it frustrated me because I wanted to stay with the story I was on and find out more. And when I turned the last page of the book and saw there was no more, I wanted to throw the book against the wall. If you like your stories wrapped up and self-contained, this isn't the book for you. Not only does it not wrap everything up, but the book ends just as you begin to have a creeping dread that you know where the story is headed.

Still, this is an indication of just how good the book is. If it weren't, it wouldn't be so hard to let it go. Dear God, Ms. Duey, how can you torture us like this? Please don't make us wait long for book 2!
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