aka YA Literature

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey

I read this post about Skin Hunger on Bookshelves of Doom, and then when I was picking up my holds from the library, it happened to be sitting on the display and I decided to check it out. Even though this isn't my usual genre of reading, it really was fantastic! It reminded me of a darker Shannon Hale novel. It did take me a few chapters to really get what was going on and come to care about the plot and the characters, but then I couldn't wait for the plot to reveal the fate of the characters.

[achtung: possible spoilers]

This book has two separate storylines and the chapters alternate between the two. They are set generations apart but begin to intertwine. They are both set in a fictional land of the past. One story follows a girl named Sadima who is born to a poor farming family. Her mother dies in childbirth and she grows up with her brother and her distant and overbearing father. Magicians in this world are imposters who swindle people out of money, but Sadima is able to communicate with animals. When a boy from the city, Franklin, learns of this gift, he goes to her and asks her to move to the city with him where he and his friend, Somiss, are trying to revive true magic that was taken away from wizards long ago. When she is 17 and her father dies, Sadima finally decides to go to the city and look up Franklin. She moves in with him and Somiss and begins helping Somiss to transcribe the ancient gypsy songs that are (he believes) keys to the past wizards’ magic. Unfortunately, Somiss is overbearing and cruel. She falls in love with Franklin and begs him to leave with her, but he is loyal to Somiss.

The other story line takes place generations later and involves a teenage boy named Hahp. He is the second son of a wealthy man who is sent by his cruel father to study at the wizard academy. Magic abounds by this time, but only sons of wealthy men are allowed to go to the wizard academy. Hahp doesn’t want to go but is forced to by his father. His family is told that they will never see him again. When he arrives there, he is told that of the ten boys in his class, only one will become a wizard. The rest will die. The wizards who are their teachers are generally completely unhelpful and rely on the boys’ desperation to learn rather than actual instruction in magic. For example, the boys are given no food and can only eat when they figure out how to use magic to create food for themselves. They are not allowed to help each other in any way, and eventually they start dying off.

The two storylines eventually begin to overlap more and more. Each story is suspenseful and interesting on its own, and you have the added anticipation of figuring out how they connect. Bookshelves of Doom said the ending was a "cliffhanger," but that is a huge understatement! This was like an unfinished novel! What happened to Sadima???? I am also not clear on how it is that magic is ubiquitous in Hahp's story, even though the wizards only teach a few others and do not allow them to practice outside of the academy.

I will definitely be purchasing this for the library and recommending it to students who like fantasy. I like the cover art a lot too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, hooray. I loved it so much! Glad you picked it up.